The NWAACC East baseball tournament hasn’t always been a cakewalk for Columbia Basin College coach Scott Rogers.
In fact, in the days of the single-elimination tournament, the longtime Hawks coach remembers it was more like walking in a minefield.
“Baseball was not meant to be single elimination,” Rogers said. “Double elimination is the best format you can have. If you have a bad day, you still have a chance to come back the next day.”
The Hawks (25-13) will open the NWAACC East tournament against Treasure Valley (31-9) at 1 p.m. Friday at Elks Memorial Field in Ontario, Ore., but Rogers likes that he doesn’t have to put a lot of pressure on his team to win the first game.
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In fact, he’s got his best pitcher — Jacob Gleichman (7-1, 2.86 ERA) — going into the more critical Game 2. Stetson Plew (2-2, 2.75) is set to start Game 3 for the Hawks.
That way, CBC can play a pressure-free game with Elliott Mendenhall (1-0, 9.00) on the mound. A win would put the Hawks in the region championship game at 7 p.m.
“We know we can beat all three teams. We’ve seen most of the arms they could possibly run at us, and we’re familiar with their offensive trends,” Rogers said. “It’s not about who we play, it’s about what we do within the context of the game.”
Even with a loss to the Chukars, the Hawks can then turn to their top starter in the 4 p.m. game against the loser between Yakima Valley (25-17) and Walla Walla (26-12).
“The last thing we wanted to do was take Gleichman and (top reliever) Plew and get into a pitcher’s duel,” Rogers said. “If you lose, you still have to come back and beat (somebody else) to stay alive.”
CBC is led on offense by Kenton Brunson (.336, 44 runs, 7 home runs, 44 RBIs), Travis Key (.356, 44 runs, 29 RBI, 6 steals) and Dalton Johnson (.360, 36 runs, 13 doubles, 8 steals).
“The strength of this group is in the offense,” Rogers said. “The pitching is young, but we’ve had several guys step up.”