Rain showers may have splashed a little mud on the opening week of NWAACC East baseball, but the Columbia Basin Hawks came out of it as fresh as clean laundry.
CBC's sweep of Blue Mountain on Saturday, 4-1 and 7-1 in Pendleton, had plenty of good pitching, hitting and defense -- areas where the Hawks had struggled to find consistency in starting 6-10 heading into regional play.
Having won three of four to start the East, CBC will need to be at its best for one of its toughest weeks of the season.
It starts today, with Treasure Valley (11-8, 4-0 East) visiting the Hawks (9-11, 3-1) for a pair starting at 1 p.m. On Saturday, CBC makes a visit to Walla Walla (4-6, 3-1), which plays at Wenatchee Valley today.
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Treasure Valley comes in after sweeping WVC big on Sunday. The Chukars are led by sophomore outfielder Chase Fields (.343, 6 2B, 9 SB) and freshman infielder Mitch Skaggs (.288, 3 2B, 12 RBI).
On the mound, starters Sam Olson (2-0, 192/3 IP, 0.46 ERA, 9 K) and Alex Jones (2-1, 19 IP, 0.95 ERA, 10 K) have been close to untouchable. CBC got two great starts against Blue Mountain, which doesn't figure to be among the league leaders.
Matt Minnich got his first win with seven innings of one-hit ball, striking out 10 and walking 1. Then Nico Lytle went six innings, allowing two hits and one earned run and striking out 11.
Lytle proved that when he throws strikes, he can dominate. In his two best outings of the season -- a combined one earned run, five hits, 15 strikeouts and three walks in 13 innings (0.69 ERA) -- he threw 73 percent of his pitches for strikes.
In his other four appearances -- 52/3 IP, 11 earned runs, 10 hits, seven strikeouts and nine walks (17.47 ERA) -- only 55 percent of his pitches have been for strikes.
Additionally, the Hawks made just one error on the weekend, got the team's first home run of the season from catcher Craig McAlpin, and saw sophomore Adam Young hit .313 in his first four games, three of those in right field.
Notes: Walla Walla split with Big Bend on Sunday in a doubleheader postponed from Saturday, losing 12-4 and winning 12-3. Cody Poznanski scored three runs for the Warriors in the win, Jarrod Turner drove in a pair of runs and Neil Schuck had four hits on the day to raise his average to .400. Drew Christina picked up the win with 11 strikeouts in eight innings. ... Spokane's doubleheader at Yakima on Saturday was postponed to April 21.
Around the NWAACC: Edmonds' Kevin Knapp is at it again. The sophomore outfielder from Bothell led the NWAACC in hitting last season at .437 (38-for-87). This season, he is off to a .434 start (23-for-53) in 16 games, with a homer, 17 runs, seven walks and seven steals. Against CBC on March 25, he went 3-for-9 with a double and scored three runs in the Tritons' sweep. ... Pierce's DJ Gee drove in seven runs in the Raiders' 19-4 win over Clark on Sunday, including a three-run homer and two-run blast. Those seven runs nearly tripled the freshman's RBI total from four to 11, and the 3-for-5 effort raised his average to .227.