Walla Walla Sweets bring in local talent

By Jeff Morrow, Tri-City Herald sports editor February 7, 2012 

KENNEWICK -- When the Tri-City Dust Devils aren't in town this summer, baseball fans can continue to get their baseball fix by travelling to Walla Walla and watching the Sweets play in the West Coast League, a summer league.

There's quite a local connection so far with the Sweets roster.

Two Southridge High grads, outfielder Andrew Mendenhall and pitcher Tyler Roberts, will be playing after their college seasons at Oregon and Campbellsville, respectively, are done.

Then there's Richland High graduate Brett Jacobs, an outfielder at Washington State, on the roster.

Finally, Hermiston's Chance Kopacz, like Roberts at Campbellsville, will play in the outfield.

The season begins June 1 at Borleske Stadium against the Corvallis Knights, the team that won the league title last season against Walla Walla.

Horsing around

The Washington State Horse Racing Commission meets this Friday to determine how many days of racing it will grant to Class C tracks this year.

Among those tracks are Kennewick's Sun Downs, which got six days of racing last spring from the state. The Tri-City Horse Racing Association had one of its best meets ever last season, with great daily handles.

This year, the commission says it anticipates getting $88,000 to $90,000 from one-tenth of 1 percent of the handle retained from Emerald Downs in 2011.

The commission will decide at the meeting, after listening to interested parties at all Class C tracks, what to do with that money.

Running begins soon

The region's first road race of the year usually is around St. Patrick's Day for the Three Rivers Road Runners' St. Paddy's day Foot Race.

Not anymore. Reinke Sports Group of Winter Park, Fla., is holding the inaugural Tri-Cities Half-Marathon, 5K and Fun Run/Walk to benefit Cystic Fibrosis, set for Feb. 26 in Richland.

The race is part of the United States Running Association's Half-Marathon series that will hit 29 cities nationwide this year.

Cost is $60 to run the 13.5-mile half marathon, where the start and finish will be at John Dam Plaza in Richland. Go to TriCitiesHalf.com to register.

College bits and pieces

Kiona-Benton grad Katharine Lotze posted a provisional NCAA Division II national qualifying mark of 38 feet, 4 1/4 inches in the women's triple jump Feb. 3 for Central Washington University at the University of Idaho Vandal Indoor. ... Kiona-Benton grad Whitney Leavitt was a double-winner, winning the 60 meters (7.73 seconds) and 200 meters (24.82 seconds) for Eastern Washington University this past weekend in Moscow, Idaho. Leavitt qualifies for the Big Sky Conference Indoor championships later this month. ... Not only was Kamiakin graduate Meagan McKinney a starter for the NCAA D-II champion College of St. Rose women's soccer team this school year, now she's a Northeast-10 Conference All-Academic honoree with her 3.88 grade point average while majoring in childhood education. ... NCAA Division I baseball begins Friday, Feb. 17. But NAIA baseball has already started. As an added bonus for you area baseball fans, Whitworth of Spokane is playing host to the Swing into Spring Baseball Classic this Friday through Sunday at Gesa Stadium in Pasco. Whitworth, which features Kennewick High grads Kevin Valerio and Landon Scott, Southridge grad Brandon Ellendt, Hanford grads Dan Scheibe and Chris Synoground, and former Wallla Walla CC player Jason Renner, will play four games this weekend: Lewis & Clark at 1 p.m. Friday; Corban at 10 a.m. Saturday and Lewis & Clark at 3 p.m. Saturday; and Concordia or Portland at 3 p.m. Sunday.

Hydro roosterales

First, the good news: Lori and Mike Jones have decided to run their U-9 unlimited for the entire circuit H1 Unlimited season in 2012. Now the bad news: Ted Porter, owner of three unlimiteds that have run the entire circuit the past two seasons, is selling his U-5, U-7 and U-57 boats and equipment and is done with the sport. Officially, Porter is ready to pursue other interests. ... The H1 Unlimited group has its annual meetings on Feb. 25 in Seattle, where the schedule will be finalized. The Lamb Weston Columbia Cup will be held July 27-29 on the Columbia River.

Early warning

Herald staffer Annie Fowler is preparing the annual Western Hockey League Best of the West package. It comes out Sunday, and it's a poll using the votes from players on every Western Division team. ... The NWAACC seeks volunteers to help with the upcoming community college basketball championships, set for March 3-6 at the Toyota Center. The tournament features 16 men's teams and 16 women's teams. By the way, it wasn't really announced when they did it, but the NWAACC has committed to having the tournament in the Tri-Cities over the next four years. ... The annual Herald motorsports calendar is set to run Feb. 26, the same day as the Daytona 500. ... The annual Media Classic, a boys and girls basketball series featuring the best from the Tri-City Herald readership area against the best from the Yakima Herald-Republic readership area, is scheduled for March 18 at Yakima Valley Community College. Last year at Pasco High School, the Tri-City's best beat Yakima best in both games. ... WSU baseball fans can see the Cougars in action May 8 at Gesa Stadium against the University of Portland. Last year, the Cougars entertained Washington in a sold-out contest.

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