C2BL Baseball Promises to Provide an Interesting Playoff Race
By Aaron VanTuyl
It’s a jumble, a puzzle, a bit of a mystery, and all kinds of interesting.
Then again, maybe it’s just too early to take it all at face value.
The Central 2B League has produced the last two State 2B champions, four of the last six state finalists, and seven final-four teams in the last three years — not to mention the first, second and third-place teams last May.
And as of spring break, the league — now boasting 12 teams — features plenty of intrigue. The undefeated league leader, Napavine, went 9-9 in league last year and finished sixth in the 10-team league; defending state finalists Toledo and Pe Ell-Willapa Valley are both under .500; Winlock, winless a year ago, is 3-3; and there’s been five one-run games and five two-run games.
Now, naturally, this could all even out over the next month. With the C2BL’s expansion to 12 teams (Kalama and Rainier joined the party this year), everyone plays an 18-game schedule — doubleheaders against its divisional opponents and single games against non-divisional opponents. That means that, for the most part, the nondivisional portion of the schedule is wrapped up; Napavine, for example, has beaten all six South Division teams (Toledo, Toutle Lake, Wahkiakum, Winlock, Kalama and Mossyrock) but opens its North Division (Napavine, Adna, PWV, Rainier, Onalaska, MWP) slate Saturday with a doubleheader in Adna.
As for balance: Adna (4-2) lost to Toutle Lake; Toutle Lake (3-3) lost to Pe Ell-Willapa Valley; and Pe Ell-Willapa Valley (3-3) lost to Winlock (3-3). Winlock beat Onalaska (1-3); Onalaska beat Toledo (2-4); Toledo beat PWV 12-1 in a rematch of the state championship game; PWV beat Toutle Lake 11-1 in a rematch of last year’s state semifinals.
The top seven teams in the C2BL move on to the 12-team District 4 tournament. Here’s a quick look at the league before the divisional doubleheaders start.
As predicted in our preseason coaches poll, Napavine is the frontrunner. The Tigers went 9-9 last year, but did so with ace pitcher/slugger Wyatt Stanley out all season after surgery to repair a torn labrum. Stanley hasn’t disappointed in his return to the diamond; he was part of a three-man no hitter and homered in the season opener, and drew five intentional walks in a win over Toledo. Sam Fagerness, meanwhile, has been solid on the mound and as dangerous as ever at the plate, and the pitching staff — Stanley, Fagerness, Jordan Purvis, Garrett Shannon and Mason Butler — have given up a combined 19 hits in 42 innings.
In the Mix
Adna, Rainier and Wahkiakum are all 4-2, while Kalama’s 3-1. The Chinooks’ only loss came to Napavine, by a 2-1 margin in eight innings, and they’ve beaten both Rainier (2-0) and Adna (9-7).
Adna’s pitching rotation is anchored by Spencer Burdick and Wes Wilson, the two arms that handled the work in the 2015 state playoffs. Burdick, for the third year in a row, is one of the league’s top pitchers; he fanned 12 in a two-hit complete game win over Wahkiakum (10-0). Even in the loss to Kalama, the Pirates got a hit out of every spot in the lineup and committed four errors.
Wahkiakum, meanwhile, thumped Rainier 10-1 on March 29, and the Mules have a handful of solid pitchers in Terrace Record, Zach Brown and Luke Brown.
Fighting for the Playoffs
– Winlock’s been the surprise of the league early on. The Cardinals entered the season on a 22-game losing streak but started with three straight wins, buoyed by solid pitching from Zach Weinert, Wyatt Dean and Brady Steveson. They’ll host Wahkiakum on Saturday in a twinbill.
– Toutle Lake’s got one of the league’s best pitchers in Zach Vetter, who held Adna to two hits in a 3-0 win, struck out seven in 4 ⅔ innings against MWP, and struck out 11 in a complete-game win over Onalaska. When Vetter isn’t on the mound, though, the Ducks are 0-3, with losses to Rainier, PWV and Napavine.
– Toledo (2-4) has a solid starting pitcher in Dakota Robins, who struck out nine and faced 10 batters without a walk or a hit in three innings against PWV. The Indians, however, have gotten off to a slow start, and are working to build up a pitching rotation similar to the one that carried them to last year’s state title. Senior Dylan Hoiseck has been a big part of that early on, and the eventual return of senior Dalton Yoder should help. They’ll try to even up their league record at Mossyrock in a doubleheader on Saturday.
– Pe Ell-Willapa Valley, like Toledo, is working a few new pitchers into the rotation. Cub Bair and Luke Gerow have shown promise early on, and senior catcher — and, now, hard-throwing pitcher — Kaelin Jurek provides a power threat in the middle of the batting order. The Titans (3-3) swept Mossyrock a day before spring break started, and will try to move up in the standings on Saturday in a twinbill at Morton-White Pass.
– Onalaska may only have one league win, but the improving Loggers can take a lot away from it. Ony beat Toledo 7-6 last Thursday in walk-off fashion, and its crew of pitchers — sophomores Matt Kurzeika and Tristen Lawrence and freshman Ashton Haight — should keep improving as the Loggers prepare for a tough slate of North Division doubleheaders, starting with a road trip to face Rainier at the RAC in Lacey on Saturday.
Central 2B League teams in the state tournament over the last three years
2014: Napavine second; Adna fourth
2015: Adna first; Toledo fourth
2016: Toledo first; Pe Ell-Willapa Valley second; Toutle Lake third
Toutle Lake 3-3
Pe Ell-WV 3-3