2018 Baseball/Softball: Spring is Lewis County’s Championship Season
By Aaron VanTuyl
Look, football season’s great. We’ve usually got a few good teams and someone makes a deep run in the postseason.
And basketball season’s always a blast, especially this past season — who would have predicted not one but two Chehalis teams playing for a gold ball in Yakima?
But if there’s one time of year when Lewis County gets to puff its collective chest out, it’s spring. The Twin Cities and the surrounding areas do stick-and-ball sports like no one else.
How can you measure this? It’s simple. I moved to the sports desk in late 2008, making the spring of 2009 my first baseball/softball season. Since then, Lewis County’s won 14 state baseball or softball titles — nine softball championships and five baseball titles.
The only year we haven’t had a state champion in that span was 2014, when both Napavine’s baseball and softball teams finished second.
Compare that to, say, basketball season. We’ve had 11 teams play for title since then, with five champions — Morton-White Pass’ back-to-back boys title teams in 2014 and 2015, Pe Ell’s boys title team in 2010, and W.F. West’s girls championship teams this year and back in 2014. That’s not a bad run, by any means, but when it comes to the big trophies, spring is king in Lewis County.
Will 2018 be any different? It certainly doesn’t look like it.
It starts out in West Lewis County, where Ken Olson’s Pe Ell-Willapa Valley team is reloaded for another run at the state championship. The Titans boast a roster with only two seniors, but should have absolutely no trouble putting up runs this year. Sisters Kamryn and Katie Adkins lead the pitching staff, and sophomore Britney Patrick hit a whopping .653 last season. The only game they lost last season was a nonleaguer to Montesano — a club that went on to win its own state championship a few weeks later.
Not that the Titans have an easy road ahead. The Central 2B League is, without question, the SEC of the 2B softball scene, winning every state championship since 2008 and all but one since 2002. Napavine, last year’s state runner-up, returns a wealth of talent; Adna welcomes in a new coach but an old name in former Centralia College baseball coach Bruce Pocklington; and Morton-White Pass and Onalaska are both young teams on the rise. Throw in a tough Ocosta team coming out of the Pacific 2B League, and District 4 should be as tough as ever once action opens at the Gateway Sports Complex on Memorial Day weekend.
Speaking of softball, W.F. West is back in action at Recreation Park and trying to win its third state championship in four years. Sure, the Bearcats graduated star pitcher Lexie Strasser — who was named the Great Northwest Athletic Conference’s Pitcher of the Week for two wins last week in the circle for Central Washington University. And sure, goofball head coach Mike Keen retired after 15 years and three championships. But the Bearcats bring back EvCo co-Offensive MVPs Kindra Davis and Olivia Dean, pitcher Ashlee Vadala and a stocked cupboard of young talent, as well as the confidence that comes when you haven’t lost a league game in half a decade. First-year coach Caty Lieseke and her team aren’t about to let that streak end without a good fight and a flurry of extra-base hits.
Meanwhile, a few blocks from Recreation Park, the Bearcat baseball team has put together one of the most impressive collections of arms in the state. Tyson Guerrero, last year’s EvCo MVP, leads off the pitching rotation, while Brandon White — a 6-foot-8 righthander — completes a duo of Washington State University-bound hurlers. Throw in Lower Columbia College-bound Dakota Hawkins, who’s been in the starting lineup and pitching in big games since his freshman year, and tough junior lefty Brock Jones — not to mention senior Gabe O’Neil and Daniel Fagerness, who made a splash in last year’s District 4 championship game — and the crimson-and-grey bullpen is built for a long playoff run. And after finishing second to Ellensburg last year, it’s safe to say they know how to get back to County Stadium in Yakima.
In the 2B ranks, however, the local standouts face a tough test on their own turf. Wahkiakum, which took third last year, brings back a quartet of standouts in brothers Luke and Zach Brown, James Anderson and Terris Record — all of whom can pitch and swing the bat. After back-to-back state titles by the Central 2B League in 2015 and 2016 (won by Adna and Toledo, respectively), Lewis County’s top 2B baseball clubs might have to knock off the only team in Wahkiakum County to get back in the championship game.