Little more than a week has passed since the high school baseball state championships played out at Gesa Stadium, with the Kamiakin Braves winning the 3A state title and the Richland Bombers finishing third in the 4A.
Which brings to mind two thoughts with Central Washington League play starting today for American Legion baseball.
First, these guys do not get much time off between high school and the summer season.
Second, how good are the Twin City Titans — one team fed by Kamiakin and Richland?
The answer to that question is — as usual — pretty good. And as usual, it won’t be easy for any team to navigate the rough waters of the CWL, a season comprised of six home-and-home doubleheaders on back-to-back days.
Twin City manager Pete Marquez said there is a slight downside to having two state placers combine into one legion team.
“If you don’t win everything,” he said, “people think you screwed up somewhere.”
But it is a nice problem to have.
The Titans indeed are loaded, with three starting pitchers coming off outstanding high school seasons in Jesse Houser, Mason Hilty and Levi Broeske, and eight more arms after that.
The lineup should be tough one through nine, paced by Houser, Hilty, Drew Oord, Corey Morris, Connor Moore, Andrew Castillo and ... the hits just keep on coming.
Also, Twin City has a lot of versatility in the field, particularly up the middle with extra talent at catcher, middle infield and center field.
“If you have to pick a favorite, the Titans are the favorites,” said Kenne-wick Bandits manager Bryan Winston. “With Kamiakin and Richland ...”
Of course, not too many people will be feeling sorry for Winston as he fills out a lineup card that includes shortstop Trek Stemp and third baseman Matt Mendenhall, veteran starters headed to Washington State in the fall.
“That’s a good start, and we’re lucky to have those guys,” Winston said. “I think we’ll compete. We’re thin on the mound, and we’re younger than we’ve been the last couple of years.
“It’s a new group of faces.”
But plenty of familiar names. Stetson Plew and Conner O’Neil have the most experience on the mound, and Jarrod Molnaa, Jordan Higley and Daniel Neville provide strong depth.
The Bandits also have a strong lineup, with guys like Jarod Gonzales, Taylor Sanderson and catchers Garrett Wilz and Dylan Maurer. Winston added he is excited to see newcomers JJ Hancock, Jared Newbry and Steven Sordahl.
While the Titans and Bandits have the luxury of two high schools feeding their senior teams, the Hanford Flames are a one-school program.
The Flames, comprised mostly of the Falcons’ high school team that won the CBBN 3A league title, will be missing its best pitcher and one of its top hitters. Rappin’ Colin Serkowski (whose salutatorian address delivered in a rap at graduation is gaining mythical status) will have reconstructive knee surgery next week after playing all spring with a torn ACL.
The Flames won’t lack for hitting, with Ryan Neal, Trevor Jones, Finn McMichael and Isaac Benard, along with the return of Austin Steele from Centralia College.
The area that could hit Hanford hard is on the mound — trying to put together a staff that will throw up to 10 games a week from a high school team that plays 20 games in an entire regular season.
Garrison Becker, another returner from Centralia, figures to be the No. 1, with Bear Braich, Jordan Burge, Kyle LaFon and Jalen DeVine also carrying the load.
Manager Tom DeWitz and co-coach Nat Roe also will need for some of the position players to come through on the hill.
“In baseball, you’re always concerned with the pitching side of things,” Roe said. “We’ve got athletes, and we’ve got guys who can get outs. I think our pitching staff will evolve nicely.”
The Pasco Sun Devils round out the Tri-City contingent of the seven-team Central Washington League, which includes the Yakima Valley Pepsi Pak, Yakima Beetles and Apple Valley Packers.
The Sun Devils should have a solid lineup built around Chris Gill, Ethan Cantu, TJ Avery, Jesse Briones, Pedro Murillo and Garrett Weiss.
They also have the start of a good defense with middle infielders Cantu and Briones, and Weiss at catcher. But like many teams, the big task will be finding enough arms to craft a staff around the likes of Avery, Gill, Justus Scott, Casey Slack and Trentin Thornhill.
The big prize this season is a trip back to Shelby, N.C. for the American Legion World Series on Aug. 17-21.
Between now and then come getting enough wins to finish in the top four in the league, finishing first or second at one of the four super regionals to qualify for state, winning state at Carlon Park in Selah (July 28-Aug. 1) and then Northwest Regionals in Billings, Mont. (Aug. 8-13).
Twin City Titans
Manager: Pete Marquez
Assistant coaches: Dustin Willis, Brady Farrington
Players: Logan Jackson, 2B/OF; Dalton Johnson, OF; Andrew Castillo, OF/P; Jesse Houser, IF/P; Ty Earley, C/IF; Nate Ruane, IF/P; Johnny Jansen, OF; Corey Morris, IF/P; Connor Moore, OF/P; Mason Hilty, IF/P; Dillon Klute, OF/P; Trystan Drury, C/P; Colton Shelby, C/1B; Nolan Earley, 1B/P; Jacob Valdez, P/1B; Levi Broeske, P/1B; Drew Oord, 3B/1B; Tori Weitz, C/1B.
Manager: Tom DeWitz
Assistant coach: Nat Roe
Players: Finn McMichael, OF; Kyle Lafon, P; Ryan Neal, 2B/P; Peter Hanson, P/3B; Jalen DeVine, 3B/P; Isaac Benard, OF; Jacob Browne, C/P; Cody Kowalski, 1B; Jakob Oram, OF; Trevor Jones, OF/P; Jordan Burge, P; Bear Braich, P; Austin Taylor, C; Brennan Sutey, SS; Garrison Becker, P; Austin Steele, OF.
Kennewick Senior Bandits
Manager: Bryan Winston
Assistant coach: Brandon Ellendt
Players: JJ Hancock, C; Clayten Ayres, P/IF; Jarod Gonzales, IF; Sam Guin, OF; Cole Henderson, Util; Jordan Higley, P; Dylan Maurer, C; Matt Mendenhall, IF; Jarrod Molnaa, P; Daniel Neville, P; Jared Newbry, IF; Stetson Plew, P; Brandon Pocasangre, IF; Conner O’Neil, P/OF; Taylor Sanderson, OF; Steven Sordahl, OF; Trek Stemp, IF; Garrett Wilz, C.
Pasco Sun Devils
Manager: Jose Ortiz
Assistant coach: Jordan Merry
Players: TJ Avery, 3B/P; Jordan Aviles, 2B; Jesse Briones, SS; Ethan Cantu, SS; Chris Gill, 1B/P; Vince Gonzalez, SS/2B; Anthony Hinkson, C/OF; Jimmy Landefeld, C; Luis Murillo, OF; Oscar Ramos, OF; Justus Scott, 3B/P; Casey Slack,1B/P; Michael Stephen, OF; Trentin Thornhill, P/OF; Garrett Weiss, C.