The Mid-Columbia Conference baseball season opens league play today with a pair of Class 4A doubleheaders.
Chiawana plays at Pasco at 3 p.m., while Richland makes the trek to Chiawana for a 2 p.m. start.
Kennewick hosts a nonleague pair against former league rival Wenatchee (2 p.m., Roy Johnson) and then opens the 3A Mid-Col season Friday against heated rival Kamiakin at LaPierre Field. Also on Friday, Southridge opens league play at Hanford, and the 4A teams continue with Pasco at Richland and Walla Walla at Chiawana.
The big news at Richland of course is the retirement of coach Ben Jacobs after 24 seasons, 433 wins and four state titles. Grant Richardson, one of five state players of the year under Jacobs, takes over in the dugout after being an assistant at Kamiakin during the Braves’ 3A state championship run last season and has the Bombers off to a 5-1 start.
The better news for the Bombers (22-6, 10-2 league, third at state in 2012) is the bounty of returning talent, including a one-two punch on the mound in seniors Mason Hilty and Levi Broeske and big-hitting junior Gibson McGeorge, all first-team all-leaguers last season. Additionally, senior second baseman Nate Ruane and junior third baseman Hunter Chambers were second-team picks, as was Hilty at short.
Chiawana (10-11, 4-8) returns a solid core from last year’s team that finished the regular season with a .500 record for the first time.
Back are honorable mention all-league senior shortstop Jesse Briones and junior pitcher Spencer Bennion along with talented junior backstop Grady Graff.
Off to a 3-3 start in nonleague games, the Riverhawks already have authored the program’s first no-hitter Bennion, Bryan Black and C.J. Peiffer combined for a 1-0 win over Eisenhower.
Former Southridge assistant Dave Price takes over as the program’s second coach after Gary Jonas stepped down. Jonas was the Pasco coach when the school split in 2009-10.
Pasco (4-15, 3-11) has been young going on forever. But even though third-year coach Tyler Hockaday has six sophomores and a freshman on the roster, he also has senior honorable mention outfielder Luis Murillo, plus junior infield/pitchers Austen Clarke and Justus Scott among others who have multiple years of varsity experience.
The biggest thing going against the Bulldogs (1-1) is inactivity. After splitting with Sunnyside in the season opener, Pasco has been off for 10 days leading into today’s pair with Chiawana.
Walla Walla (14-9, 7-5) also has a lot of new faces in the lineup and has started the season 2-2 (all eight MCC teams have started .500 or better in nonleague games).
The Blue Devils will be tough on the mound with senior Luke Reardon (second team) and junior Adam Mathews (honorable mention) as a tough one-two punch.
However, veteran coach Keith Gradwohl said they have had to rework the left side of the infield with junior Spencer Locati (HM third base) out for perhaps another month with a shoulder injury and shortstop Jarrod Needham a week or two away from returning from a back injury.
Note: The 3A Mid-Columbia teams will be previewed in Friday’s paper.