Full schedules & scores
McKabe Cottrell will help lead Freeman in its quest for a State 1A title. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Prep baseball: League-by-league glances at area teams

Greater Spokane League

Outlook

League coaches are expecting a three-team race for the league championship involving co-defending champs Central Valley and Gonzaga Prep and Mt. Spokane. The season should be nothing short of entertaining. Most of the teams return solid nucleuses. … Mead brings back seven starters led by Mason Wells (pitcher/outfielder), Riley Whelan (p), Scott Neely (catcher/infielder) and Kameron Kinder (inf). “We really like the work ethic and competitiveness of this group,” coach Ryne Webb said. “There are several guys in the hunt for various positions and those jobs will stay open until someone earns them. Our success will depend on how quickly these young guys acclimate to the speed of varsity baseball. The talent is there, but we need the learning process to move along in a hurry.” … CV graduated just one starter and brings back first-team all-league pitchers Jeremy Yelland and Conner DeGeest. “After two straight trips to regionals, we have high expectations of making the state tournament this season,” coach Michael Amend said. … Mt. Spokane returns seven starters. Leading the way is first-team all-league pick Gabe Martin (shortstop), also a first-team all-state selection, Ben McKinnis (p/third base), Jacob Morgan (p/second base), Garrett Stevens (first base/p) and Marcus Cain (p/outfielder). “Team speed and defense are our strengths,” coach Alex Schuerman said. “We should be solid on the mound, too. Experience is a strength also, as many of these players are playoff tested.” … G-Prep brings back seven starters led by first-team all-league picks Ryan Gross (c) and Seth Kuykendall (p) and Connor Coballes (ss/p) and Carsten Schmidt (p/1b). “We return our entire pitching staff as well as our starting infield,” coach Brian Munhall said. “We return a lot of depth and experience from a very talented team.” … University returns five starters led by Trent Seek, Clayton Fincher, Bryan Braley and Ethan Jones. “Energetic group of players,” coach Kevin May said. “Hard-working, coachable and hungry to compete.” … North Central returns seven starters led by first-team all-league picks Alek Jacob (p/ss), Trainor Warren (c), Brenden Duncan (designated hitter) and Khanian Charlton (of). “We return our three pitchers from last season and our top four hitters also return,” coach Mark Douglas said. “North Central has a real opportunity to make a run deep into May.” … Shadle Park brings back six starters led by first-team all-league picks Jaden Vandervert (of) and Justin Solt (inf) along with Griffin Bacon and Dalton Dawson. Coach Ron Brooks is beginning his 33rd year as head coach. “We have good experience and some quality key returners,” Brooks said. “We should be competitive. The players really enjoy the game.” … Ferris returns six starters led by Cam Liss (p), Nick Merkel (p), Brock Bozett (ss), Nick McGoldrick (of), Eric Mast (of) and Caleb Hill (of). “This is a much more cohesive group than we have had the last few years,” coach Scott Ward said. “Pitching depth and athleticism should be greatly improved, as should chemistry and leadership. This group believes in each other.”

Great Northern League

Outlook

There’s a clear consensus among league coaches. Pullman is picked as the leading contender for the title. … Defending champ Clarkston returns just three starters, but coach Bruce Bensching expects his team to challenge for the league title. The Bantams are led by returning first-team all-league picks AJ Davis (p/inf) and Hunter Hansen (p/of). “We should have good team speed and fielding should also be a plus,” Bensching said. … Cheney returns two starters. They are Cade VanWormer (c), a first-team all-league pick, and Andrew Witt (2b). “My goal is to always improve,” coach Glenn Chamberlain said. “We have lots of room for improvement. It will start with our pitchers. We will be depending on some underclassmen to step up and play big roles.” … West Valley brings back seven starters. They are Jaxon Imada, Cameron Andrews, Scott South, Braxton Swenson, Connor Whitney, Adam Lee and Chris Honnold. “Defense will be our strength this year,” coach Cory Aitken said. “We have at least six kids competing for an infield spot. The depth of our defense will be a strength. This will allow me to pull pitchers quicker and use a position player without deflating our defense.”

Northeast A

Outlook

Defending champ Freeman is expected to repeat. And for good reason. The Scotties bring back seven starters and 12 lettermen – the bulk of a team that took third in state. A run for a state title is in the offing. Leading the way is two-time league most valuable player McKabe Cottrell, who has signed with Gonzaga. Also back is three-time all-league pick JT Neely and first team picks Simon Rooney and Desmond Parisotto along with Koby Kent, Konner Freudenthal and Keegan Cottrell. “I return guys who have played in the postseason the last two to three years,” coach Chad Ripke said. “Our nonleague schedule is the toughest I’ve ever scheduled. My guys hopefully will get tested throughout the season and be ready to make a postseason run again. Our goal is to get back to Yakima (state) hopefully with a different ending.” … Riverside returns three starters led by first-team all-league pick John Bogetti along with John Coppock and Nathan Pratt. “We need to stay healthy to compete,” coach Bryan McNaghten said. … Lakeside brings back four starters. Leading the way are Drew Shuler, Nate Johnson, Peyton Ross, Tristan Cox, Cale Swanson and James Clark. Coach Tim Klein said his team lacks varsity game experience.

Small schools

Outlook

In 2B, Colfax is picked to defend its league championship. … Liberty returns seven starters including first-team all-league pick Tyler Haas, a three-sport standout. The Lancers must overcome the loss of their top two pitchers. … In 1B, Colton is the defending state champ. The Wildcats bring back eight starters. They’re led by Brady Chadwick (p/inf), the league MVP, and first-team picks Grant Kinzer (of) and Pete Schultheis (c). Kinzer led Colton in hitting with a .525 average. “We’re excited about the depth and experience of our pitching staff,” said coach Pat Doumit, who has led Colton to three state titles. “Offensively, our lineup has the potential to be very strong from the top down. Thirteen of our 15 players played summer baseball.” … Garfield-Palouse returns five starters including Mason Bates, Evan Weagraff, Scott Thompson and Riley Pederson. “We think we will be vastly improved,” coach Jim Stewart said. “But with the lack of experience a lot depends on how fast the young guys develop.” … Columbia returns all starters off a team that was winless last year. “Still a young team that’s excited about having the opportunity to play,” coach Curt Nelson said. … Selkirk returns five starters in Brayden Taylor, Ben Avey, Calvin Petrich and Peter McAnerin. Coach Jeremy Link said he has a young team with inexperienced pitchers.

Idaho

Outlook

It wasn’t exactly out of nowhere, but Lake City did surprise by capturing the State 5A championship last season. It was a combination of timing and solid play at state. The Timberwolves, 19-8 a year ago, return four starters for second-year coach Paul Manzardo, who was North Idaho College’s coach when the program was eliminated. Leading the T-Wolves will be Kyle Manzardo (inf) and Kodie Kolden (inf/p), who went the distance on the mound in the title game. Paul Manzardo describes his team as competitive, aggressive and scrappy. Versatility and infield experience are team strengths he said. Manzardo expects the league to be tightly competitive with any team able to win at anytime. … Mick Zeller returns for a second stint as coach at Post Falls. He was coach for 12 years the first time. He inherits not only the best pitcher perhaps in the region, but maybe in the Northwest in 6-foot-6 junior Jake Pfennigs, who has given Arizona State an oral commitment. Also back are Wyatt Setian (inf) and Nate Buer (c). “With the combination of the returners and newcomers, we should be competitive in league,” Zeller said. … Lewiston returns Julian Washburn (p), Alex Light (of) and Riley Way (inf). … Coeur d’Alene brings back Daniel Gunnerson (p) and Trevor Lucky (inf). … Lakeland returns seven starters under 14-year coach Jason Bradbury. Leading the way are Jared McDaniel, the league MVP, Ryan Pote, Andrew Neilson, Max Baker and Dylan Bradbury. “We only graduated two last year and have a good incoming senior group who have played together since Little League,” Bradbury said. “They’re very coachable kids, work hard and love playing the game.” … Timberlake returns Seth Villapondo, Dustin Smith, Dock Sommers and Brendan Jessen. “We have some very interchangeable parts,” coach Cameron Knigge said. “We have quite a few pitchers who bring a different attitude to the mound.” … Bonners Ferry is the defending league champ and finished third at state. The Badgers return six starters. They’re led by Jesse Dunham and Brady Bateman. “We return most of our starters,” coach Tom Turpin said. “Our defense should be solid and pitching should be deep.”

- Compiled by Staff writer Greg Lee