A look at area leagues:
After winning a state title in 2007 and playing in the final four last season, it makes sense that Richland’s incredible pool of talent would one day run out.
But it won’t be this year. The Bombers feature a lineup that includes four Division I college signees — Brett Jacobs (Washington State), Cody Shepherd (Washington), Eric Yardley (Seattle) and Jamison Rowe (Nevada) — and another, Josh Rapacz, who is likely headed to Portland.
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Jacobs, who was named to the Louisville Slugger preseason All-America team by Collegiate Baseball magazine, hit .508 during the regular season with 10 home runs and 38 RBIs to win the CBL 4A triple crown and earn all-state honors along with Shepherd (.476, 10, 33).
Kamiakin figures to reload rather than rebuild. The Braves will be led by Saint Mary’s-bound first baseman Shawn O’Brien (.400, 3 HR, 26 RBI) and pitcher Cody Young, who is drawing Division I interest.
Travis Chalk will be the catalyst for Hanford after being named to the CBL 3A first team as a pitcher and third baseman (.446, 3 HR, 23 RBI; 2.76 ERA, 29 K, 38 IP), though he’ll move over to shortstop.
Eastmont and Eisenhower have some big holes to fill, especially in the pitching staff. Walla Walla also will have a lot of new faces and will rely heavily on third baseman Michael Lemke (.317, 13 RBIs) and pitcher Matt Staudenmaier (2.92 ERA). West Valley returns just three starters, but one of those is CBL 3A first-team shortstop Cory Urquhart, who was second in the league in hitting (.486).
Southridge would seem to have an advantage over defending 3A state champion Kennewick with 10 starters coming back, including CBL 3A player of the year Jay Fox (.383, 4 HR, 31 RBI; 2.56 ERA), University of Oregon-bound shortstop Andrew Mendenhall (.444, 23 RBI; 7 SB) and do-everything Clayton Homme (.438, 4.70 ERA), all of them first-team all-league players.
Kennewick graduated most of its regulars but has the area’s top prospect returning in CBL 3A pitcher of the year and all-state first-teamer Tony Bryant (1.82 ERA, 8-2, 70 K), who already has a scholarship to Oregon State and could be taken in the top five rounds of the amateur draft come June. Also, third baseman Trux French (.456, 4 HR, 25 RBI) was one of the top hitters in the league.
Pasco tied for second at 8-8 in the CBL 4A after going 4-16 overall the previous year and 0-20 before that. The Bulldogs have a solid core of returners, including second-teamers P Anthony Garza (4-4, 3.82 ERA, 51 IP, 31K) and 1B Trevor Brain (.312, 4 HR, 20 RBI), a CWU signee.
The rest of the league — Davis, Wenatchee, Moses Lake and Sunnyside — may struggle a bit early on replacing the bulk of their lineups in what will be a talent-rich league.
League champion Selah is loaded, as usual, starting with all-state honorable mention pitcher Justin Windsor (1.00 ERA, league-high 7 wins, 38 K, 35 IP; .558 BA, 28 RBI) and shortstop Jake Fife (.500, 4 HR, 29 RBI; 2.41 ERA, 51 K, 32 IP). Ellensburg and Ephrata are right there as well.
Othello should make a bid to be among the league’s top tier, led by first-team all-league catcher Shon Valdez (.375) and second-team infielder Marc Garza (.426, 23 RBI). Prosser returns seven players, including C Scott Donovan (.341).
The league was a jumble at the top last season, with Connell, Kiona-Benton and Warden all going 9-3 in league and River View 8-4. Three of those four return loaded for bear.
Back is league MVP Dennin Harding, a senior shortstop and pitcher for River View who hit .506 last year with four homers and 26 RBIs and went 7-5 with 50 strikeouts.
Warden also will be tough again, returning five players who hit .372 or better, including league-leading Johnny Guerra (.645) along with top pitcher Arty Reyes (2.86 ERA, 6 wins, 52 K, 46 1/3 IP). Connell has six returning starters, including Nate Eppich (.485, 3 HR, 26 RBI; 4.11 ERA, 6-2) and Morgan Heimann (2.69 ERA, 5-4).
Ki-Be doesn’t have as many returners, but Corey Brundridge swept the league’s pitching categories (1.83 ERA, 9 wins, 85 strikeouts in 61 1/3 innings).