Two weeks into the CBBN 3A baseball season, and, if anything, the league outlook is cloudier than when everyone was at zeros.
Sounds like a perfect time for another edition of Kennewick-Kamiakin baseball.
Whenever the Lions and Braves step on the field together -- as they will at La Pierre Field at 2 p.m. today -- all the clichs about throwing out the records come tumbling forth.
Then again, as they say, those are clichs for a reason. And Kennewick coach A.J. Marquardt has seen too many great games between the two schools to think any differently.
"We told the guys today, it doesn't matter if Kamiakin is 12-0 or 0-12 -- or we could be -- the records go out the window anytime you play an intercity rival, or any where in the Tri-Cities," said Marquardt, whose club is off to a 4-2 start in league and 8-4 overall.
The Lions and Braves (7-2, 3-1) are part of a five-way logjam atop the standings along with Hanford, Eastmont and Southridge, all at 3-1.
Southridge (6-4) travels to Eastmont (4-5) today for a 1 p.m. start, and Hanford (8-2) entertains West Valley (4-5, 1-3) at Waits Field. Pasco (2-9, 1-5) takes on winless Sunnyside (0-8, 0-4) at 4 p.m. at home, with a chance to put some ground between itself and the Rams for sixth place.
The meeting of Kennewick and Kamiakin pits two teams that have won in different ways.
The Lions are crushing the ball, hitting .362 as a team with three regulars topping .400 -- Justin Hancock at .526, Trek Stemp .500 and Jared Gonzales .412. Gonzales also has three home runs in 34 at-bats.
They also put a lot of pressure on opposing catchers, with 35 steals, including 11 by Stemp.
"Offensively, we've done a good job, the last few doubleheaders especially," Marquardt said. "The kids have shown a lot of patience at the plate, and offensively we've had some pretty productive games.
"I'd like to see a little more consistency from our pitchers and a little more consistency on the defensive end. If we do that, we'll be tough to beat."
Kamiakin certainly has a lineup that can stack up runs -- Jesse Houser is hitting .500 with four doubles, three triples and 13 RBIs, while both Ty Earley (.458) and Drew Oord (.435) are dangerous.
But the Braves have gotten terrific production from a quartet of arms -- Houser, Nolan Earley, Austen Hebdon and David Marshall -- who have them sporting a team ERA of 2.94.
Marshall is one of the rare sophomores to hold his own throwing to Tri-Cities hitters, with a 2.40 ERA in 11 2/3 innings.
"His best pitch is his changeup," said Braves coach Ryan Carter. "He gets batters to roll over and gets a lot of ground-ball outs.
"We have a nice mix -- some kids are a little more fastball oriented, a little firmer, and other guys are more ground-ball, pitch-to-contact type kids."
-- In the 4A ranks, Chiawana entertains Wenatchee today to conclude a nine-day stretch where the Riverhawks played eight games against the top four teams in the league.
By no means did they come through unscathed -- they lost five of six coming into today, including a 17-run loss to Richland and 10-run loss to Walla Walla. But the Riverhawks nearly knocked off the Bombers in their second game (4-1), lost by a run to Davis and beat Walla Walla 4-1.
"I'm impressed with Chiawana," said Bombers coach Ben Jacobs, whose team has the day off heading into Friday's pair with Walla Walla at Bomber Field.
Jacobs' own team has once again responded to his early-season chiding and sits 6-0 atop the league, a game ahead of Wenatchee and Davis, both 4-0.
"We've definitely gotten better," Jacobs said. "All our starters are (hitting) over .300."
And Richland is getting its usual share of standout pitching, led by starters Mason Hilty and Levi Broeske, both with ERAs under 1.
Broeske, a first-year varsity junior, has been a nice surprise, allowing just one earned run in 25-plus innings.
For Jacobs' part, he knows the toughest days are ahead for his team, with doubleheaders at Wenatchee and Davis coming next week after Friday's date with Wa-Hi.
"These three coming up are big for us," he said.