The Class 4A baseball teams in the Mid-Columbia Conference got their league seasons underway Tuesday, and today their 3A brothers will join them.
Kennewick and Kamiakin will renew their heated rivalry with a 2 p.m. doubleheader at LaPierre Field, while Southridge opens at Hanford at 4 p.m. The 4A teams also are back in action, with Richland entertaining Pasco and Walla Walla paying a visit to Chiawana, both at 4 p.m.
The defending state champion Braves (19-9, 8-6 league 2012) open league play on a three-game losing streak after winning their first three. Coach Ryan Carter returns five regulars from last season, led by ace David Marshall, a first-team all-leaguer who won the state championship game as a sophomore, and second-team seniors Logan Jackson at shortstop and Ty Earley behind the plate.
Senior Austen Hebdon looks primed to be a solid No. 2 starter, senior center fielder Johnny Jansen is a returning starter, and junior Trystan Drury could be a big-time glove at third.
Kamiakins pitching and defense will set the pace and give the hitting some time to grow up.
One team that is all grown up is Southridge (13-8, 10-4), coming off a season during which the Suns finished second in league despite breaking in a lot of green players. Most of those kids are back this season, giving Southridge and coach Tim Sanders a leg up on the rest of the 3A teams in experience.
First-team seniors Cole Henderson (infield) and Conner ONeil (pitcher/outfielder) have been contributing since their sophomore seasons. They should lead the charge for a talented senior class that also includes pitcher Justin Kreutz (second team) and shortstop Jared Newbry (honorable mention), catcher Jimmy Landefeld and outfielder Kory Miller.
The Suns are off to a 4-2 start and will face a Hanford team that is 3-3 with a boatload of new faces in the lineup. Graduated are five first-team picks and eight all-league players overall from last years team that went 18-4 and won the league title with a 13-1 record before going 0-2 in the playoffs.
Three key returners are back in junior outfielder Isaac Benard and senior pitcher Jalen DeVine, both honorable mention picks last year, and first baseman Cody Kowalski. Senior shortstop Brennan Sutey also is off to a hot start, but the big challenge for coach Tom DeWitz is coming up with a solid No. 2 starter.
Kennewick (19-8, 9-5) is off to a 4-2 start, and coach AJ Marquardt wont have three-time MVP/offensive player of the year Trek Stemp in the lineup for the first time in four seasons. However, the Lions still will pack plenty of punch at the plate behind junior catcher JJ Hancock (first-team pick at DH), junior outfielder Steven Sordahl (second team) and seniors Clayten Ayres, Kaden Julian and Vince Gonzalez.
Moreover, Kennewick will be aces on the mound with Ayres and Jarrod Molnaa, both second-team picks last year, and junior lefty Colton Plew.