Whatever happens today at Roy Johnson Field, this much is true: Half of the Mid-Columbia Conference’s 3A teams will be headed to state.
And they won’t have far to travel.
With the MCC winning all four loser-out games against the Greater Spokane League on Tuesday, the regional round of state slated for next weekend at Avista Stadium in Spokane has been moved to Pasco High.
Tuesday’s sweep also means the Tri-Cities will keep alive a streak of sending a team to state dating back to the first state baseball tournament in 1973, when Richland lost to Shadle Park in 10 innings and Hanford was edged by Eastmont 2-0 in first-round games.
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With two teams guaranteed from the 3As and Richland a No. 1 seed in today’s 4A regional at Bomber Field, odds are that the Tri-Cities also will have a team at the state semifinals for the seventh consecutive season dating back to 2006. That would make 14 out of 18 seasons with a team in the semifinals, including a combined seven state titles by Richland (1999, 2005, ’07 and ’09), Southridge (2004), Kennewick (2008) and Kamiakin (2012).
If one of the local schools does advance, it will have a home-field advantage, with the 3A and 4A semifinals and championship returning to Gesa Stadium in Pasco after a big turnout last season to watch Kamiakin and Richland.
Class 3A District 5/8 at Roy Johnson Field, Kennewick: This matchup between the MCC and Greater Spokane League became an all-Tri-City affair when the Spokane teams got swept aside Tuesday.
Four days later, that leaves all four MCC teams with their ace available, and expect to see each team’s top thrower in their first game.
To start with, Kamiakin (12-10) plays Hanford (12-9) in a loser-out game at 10 a.m., likely pitting the Braves’ David Marshall against the Falcons’ Jalen DeVine on the mound.
When these two teams met two weeks ago, they split, with Kamiakin winning the Marshall-DeVine matchup 6-2. That game was one of just five during the regular season where Hanford’s triple-crown winner, Isaac Benard, went hitless.
The 1 p.m. game pits top seed Kennewick (18-3) and No. 2 Southridge (15-6), two more teams that split during the regular season. The Lions’ top starter, Jarrod Molnaa, threw a five-hit shutout with 10 strikeouts in Kennewick’s 10-0 win during the split, though Southridge starter Conner O’Neil wasn’t helped by four errors in that game.
Between Kennewick’s Molnaa and Clayten Ayres and Southridge’s O’Neil and Jake Ebberts, both teams have plenty of starting firepower should they lose and have to play in the 4 p.m. game against the morning’s winner for the second and final berth to state.
Both advancing teams will get what could be low-hanging fruit from the west side — the No. 6 team from District 3/4 (West Central/Greater St. Helens) and No. 5 team from District 2 (Kingco/Metro).
Class 4A District 5/8 at Bomber Field, Richland: The 10 a.m. elimination game features Walla Walla (7-14) and Mead (14-8) before the headliner at 1 p.m. as Gonzaga Prep (20-1) puts its sterling record on the line against perennial power Richland (15-6), bidding for a seventh consecutive trip not just to state but to the final four.
The Bullpups feature four of the GSL’s top seven hitters, all over .450, led by Jordan Rathhbone (.521) and Justin Blatner (.472, 5 HR, 24 RBI). Blatner, a junior who has committed to Gonzaga University, also was one of the top pitchers in the league at 4-1 with a tiny 0.28 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 25 innings. Fellow starter Wyatt Mills is 6-0 with a 0.54 ERA in 26 innings, and G-Prep has four regular pitchers who have run over the GSL this season.
Richland fans might remember Blatner from last year’s 5-1 Bomber win in the postseason, when the Prep pitcher struggled with control and was dinged by errors. Still, he only gave up five hits in the game.
The Bombers, who have played just one game in the last 14 days, have scored more runs of late but will need to play real clean behind likely starter Mason Hilty in order to stay put the following weekend.
Two teams advance to state, including the winner of an afternoon elimination game between the morning winner and Richland-Prep loser. But the Richland-Prep winner will come back to Bomber Field the following week to take on the District 3/4 No. 8 team in the first round. The second seed heads to Heidelberg Field in Tacoma for the District 3/4 No. 4 team.
Class 2A CWAC district: Prosser heads to Ephrata to try to secure the team’s first state berth since 1993.
The Mustangs (15-6) take on West Valley (17-3) at 1 p.m. in the semifinals, with Selah (12-9) and East Valley (13-7) meeting at 10 a.m.
A win and Prosser will be at least the district’s No. 3 seed to state. A loss and the Mustangs will play a seeding game for Tuesday’s loser-out, winner-to-state contests against the Great Northern League.
Class 2B District 9: Tri-Cities Prep hopes not to be the odd man out today at Borleske Stadium in Walla Walla as three of the four remaining teams will advance to regionals.
Prep (14-7) plays Tekoa-Oakesdale-Rosalia (10-11) in an elimination game at 11 a.m., followed by the championship game at 1:30 p.m. between DeSales (16-2) and Asotin (15-4) and a seeding game at 4 p.m.
Class 1B District 9: Liberty Christian travels to Colton at 11 a.m. today with hopes of winning the top seed to regionals. A loss would send the Patriots to an elimination game Tuesday in Medical Lake.