PASCO -- Many questions abound as the NWAACC East Region baseball season kicks off today.
Can Columbia Basin win its third regional title in as many seasons under coach Steve Farrington and 11th in 14 years? Can Walla Walla maintain its torrid hitting? Is Treasure Valley for real?
Those questions may take weeks or months to answer, but the process begins today with four East doubleheaders, including a pair of games for CBC (10-6) at Yakima Valley (6-3).
The matchup pits the Hawks, with one of the most consistent pitching staffs in the region, against the Yaks and their potent lineup.
Sophomore right fielder Jake Mann ranks fourth in the NWAACC in hitting at .500 in the young season. Fellow outfielder Dusty Kerns is hitting .429 and former Selah standout Jake Fife is at .375, and YVC has a team is batting .298.
The Hawks are not exactly in a hitting slump with a .285 team average. But their strength so far has been pitching. CBC's 2.47 ERA is second in the league to Treasure Valley's remarkable 1.52 ERA.
CBC has gotten quality innings from at least nine different pitchers, including strong starts from Arturo Reyes, Kody Young and Mac Acker.
Speaking of Treasure Valley, the Chukars are off to a 15-0 start, have that sterling ERA and are hitting .298, second only to Walla Walla's .340 team average.
Freshman outfielder Chase Fields is second in the NWAACC with a .545 batting average, and sophomore first baseman Aaron Trukositz, a former Umatilla standout, is eighth in the league with a .462 average.
However, their 10 wins within the NWAACC have come against teams with a combined record of 26-44, including a sweep of Grays Harbor (3-12) and Centralia (4-11) and three wins over Chemeketa (3-8).
By comparison, CBC's 8-4 mark against NWAACC teams includes clubs with a combined record of 60-64, and seven of the 10 teams are within two games of .500 or better.
It would be remarkable if Walla Walla, ranked 15th in the latest American Baseball Coaches Association Pacific JC poll, could maintain its early-season offensive fireworks.
The Warriors (10-4) have scored 98 runs, averaging seven a game. They've been getting hitting from up and down the lineup, with plenty of Mid-Columbia products making hay.
Sophomore catcher Kyle Sani (Southridge) his third in the NWAACC with a .522 batting average, sophomore third baseman Chance Kopacz (Hermiston) is fifth in batting (.488) and second in RBIs (15), and sophomore first baseman Marc Garza is hitting .378 and has 11 RBIs (tied for sixth).
Additionally, Burbank's Neal Schuck (freshman second baseman), Southridge's Tyler Roberts (sophomore outfielder) and Pasco's Anthony Garza (sophomore pitcher) join Walla Walla's Nick Jordan (sophomore pitcher), Ryan James (freshman pitcher) and Matt Wujek (freshman outfielder) on the roster.
Other Mid-Columbia products on East teams:
-- Big Bend (7-7): Conor Hamilton, Othello (fr., 1B); Rico Moreno, Moses Lake (fr., U).
-- Blue Mountain (6-8): Gunnar Morby, Southridge (fr., 1B); Brian Bowe, Southridge (fr., IF) ... Morby is hitting .407, 22nd in the NWAACC.
-- Spokane (10-6): Dillon Jackson, Kamiakin (so., C); Stinson Ott, Richland (so., P); James McKinnis, Kennewick (fr., P) ... Jackson is third on the team in hitting at .350 ... Ott has an 0.47 ERA in 19 innings.
-- Wenatchee Valley (1-6): Valdez Concepcion, Othello (fr., C); Michael Gordon, Kennewick (so., 1B); Troy Stephens, Moses Lake (so., P).
-- Yakima Valley (6-3): Hayden Hilty, Richland (fr., 1B); Morgan Heiman, Connell (so., P).