KENNEWICK -- You can't say that the Kennewick Lions don't miss Tyler Morfin.
A two-time all-league second-team catcher, Morfin was slated for a third season starting behind the dish. Coming off a fall in which the 6-foot-5, 235-pounder was an all-league first-team lineman on both sides of the ball, he figured to have a big spring for his Kennewick swansong.
When a knee injury over the winter stole Morfin's spring, Kennewick coach AJ Marquardt knew his team wouldn't just miss having him in the lineup, but in the dugout as well.
"We miss Tyler," Marquardt said. "We miss having his bat in the lineup, having him behind the plate. This would have been his third year.
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"We miss our big guy."
But what most people expected to be a void in the Lions' lineup instead has turned into an opportunity for junior Garrett Wilz, a first-year varsity player.
Through last Tuesday, Wilz was leading the CBBN -- 3A and 4A -- in home runs (7) and RBIs (26) while hitting .342 batting in the five hole in the order.
"Garrett came out and stepped up and grabbed the bull by the horns," said Marquardt, adding that Wilz was headed for the Lions' lineup one way or another.
Marquardt coached the Kennewick Phantoms Junior Legion team, and he watched Wilz put up big numbers last summer.
"We knew he was something special," Marquardt said. "We figured he would spell Morfin behind the plate in Game 2 (of doubleheaders) and be our everyday DH.
"We knew his bat would be in our lineup."
Chiefs' focus back to baseball: Life in Moses Lake has returned to focusing on baseball.
It's been a little more than a month now since the baseball community was stunned by the death of Chiefs coach Ed McNamara, who was the center of the baseball world in Moses Lake running both the high school and summer programs.
On the field, the Chiefs are 5-11 overall and 2-6 in the 4A division. But those numbers mean far less to interim coach Quintz Whitaker than seeing his kids get back to being ... well ... kids.
"It's been more about finding ourselves again," he said. "When you lose your head coach, aside from feeling like you've lost your captain, you have to have someone step in and redirect the ship, and we've had to get back on course."
As a feeling of normalcy has returned to the dugout, so has the play of the Chiefs, who after losing six straight split doubleheader with Davis and Wenatchee. They dropped a pair of one-run games to first-place Walla Walla last Tuesday.
As expected, Mitch Yada has been Moses Lake's rock on the mound, with a 2.25 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 36 innings. Shortstop Cameron Alvarado leads the team in hitting at .450.
The Chiefs have a big week ahead, with doubleheaders at home against Eisenhower today and Chiawana on Friday. Win three out of four, and they could vault into fourth place in the league and a real shot at getting through districts in the postseason.
Playoff picture forming: The end of the regular season is fast approaching for the 3A and 4A divisions.
After today's Eastmont-Sunnyside doubleheader in Kennewick, all the 3A teams will have two dates left.
Barring a major surprise, the league title will come down to the final day of the season on May 3, when Southridge and Kennewick square off at Roy Johnson Field.
If the Suns (8-0 CBBN 3A) can at least split with the Wildcats today, they need only to sweep winless Sunnyside on Friday to force the Lions (8-2) to win both games in their regular-season finale.
Kennewick plays West Valley (3-7) on Friday and likely will need a sweep to have a shot at the title. However, the Lions' main focus will be holding on to second place, which along with the No. 1 seed has a bye at districts and will save postseason wear and tear on the pitching staff.
Kamiakin (7-3) is hot on their tail but doesn't have any gimmes down the stretch, playing at Hanford (5-5) on Friday and at Eastmont (5-3) next week.
Eastmont and Hanford would need a lot of breaks to go their way to leapfrog both Kamiakin and Kennewick into the No. 2 spot.
In the 4A, Walla Walla (8-0) is in full control coming off the Blue Devils' sweep of Richland, which likely will finish out of first in league for the first time since 2006.
Wa-Hi has a key twinbill at Davis (6-2) today and then finishes at Wenatchee (3-5) on Friday. The Bombers (6-2) play host to Wenatchee today and Davis on Friday.
The matchup between the Bombers and Pirates will settle the No. 2 seed, which along with the No. 1 gets a bye and in the first-round of the district tournament the following week.