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Moscow, Pullman baseball primed to make a splash at state tournament

May 15—For the Moscow and Pullman baseball teams, a year like this has been building for a while.

Guys like Tyson Izzo, Connor Isakson and Levi Anderson for Moscow, or Caleb Northcroft, Calvin Heusser and Cade Hill for Pullman, have suited up for the Bears and Greyhounds since they were underclassmen, often battling against bigger and more experienced teams day in and day out, year after year.

Now, Moscow and Pullman are the veteran-laden squads heading into their respective Idaho Class 4A and Washington Class 2A state tournaments this week.

"For the most part, this has been a long ride for all of them," Moscow coach Griffin Rod said. "When you take on a bunch of young players, you do it out of necessity. And now this is the year where it really transitioned (to veteran players). It's gratifying for me, but I'm sure it's even more for them."

In other classifications across the two states, Kendrick and Orofino enter their state tourneys as district champs and Asotin and Pomeroy are already underway.

Here's a full look at state baseball for the area:

No. 2 seed Bears riding a big winning streak

Few teams are hotter than the Bears (17-7), who enter the 4A state tournament on a 10-game winning streak that includes a championship run in their district tournament.

No. 2 seed Moscow opens State against No. 7 seed Minico at 9 a.m. Pacific on Thursday at Vallivue High School in Caldwell.

It was a long, steady grind to get to this period of late-season dominance for the Bears. Last year, Moscow snuck into the state tournament with a losing record only to leave with an 0-2 mark at State.

That left the Bears — who returned all but one player from that team — wanting more this time around.

"When we started this season, we just had a renowned focus on growing our offense and creating a different type of team approach because we felt that was the piece that was missing," Rod said. "We had good pitching, we played great defense, we just weren't able to put up enough runs."

That all changed this season. Now, the Bears still boast their great pitching and defense, plus they can score runs in bunches.

Moscow is led by speedy leadoff man JP Breese (.447 average, 19 stolen bases), consistent cleanup hitter Anderson (.406 average, 29 RBI) and the powerful bat of Ethan McLaughlin (four home runs).

Izzo at catcher and Isakson in the outfield give the Bears some of the best fielders in the business. And Anderson (6-2, 0.83 ERA) also doubles as Moscow's ace pitcher.

Pullman will play defending champs

The No. 9 seed Greyhounds get a tough draw to start the Washington 2A state tourney.

Pullman (18-4) faces two-time defending state champ and eighth-seeded Tumwater (18-6) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Auburn High School.

But, like Moscow, the Greyhounds are hoping their veteran-laden roster will pay off in the postseason.

Pullman's roster features 10 total seniors and three juniors who have played varsity ball since their freshman seasons.

The Greyhounds enter State as both the regular-season champ and the district tournament champ out of the 2A Greater Spokane League.

"They've played together for a long time. They all get along really well," Pullman coach Kevin Agnew said. "Every time we've needed somebody to step up, a different guy's done it, and hopefully that continues this weekend."

Pullman's strength starts with its pitching with the one-two punch of Northcroft (6-0, 0.62 ERA) and Heusser (7-1, 1.98 ERA).

"We've won a lot of doubleheaders this year because we have two good guys throwing for us," Agnew said.

The team's vocal leaders also include team captain Hill and Joey Hecker.

And no player has seen more plate appearances than Brayden Randall, who leads the team with 28 runs.

Whitepine League dominates 1A

No baseball league in Idaho has been more dominant over the last three decades than the Whitepine League.

The last time a WPL team didn't win the 1A state championship was 1998, when Greenleaf Friends took the crown — a school that has long since discontinued its baseball program.

The WPL's four teams vying for the title this year at Capital High School in Boise include Kendrick (15-7), the district champs; Troy (15-5), the two-time defending state champs; Potlatch (15-7) and Clearwater Valley (13-13).

Each of the last two years, it's been an all-WPL semifinals.

Players like Kendrick's Hunter Taylor (37 runs, 27 hits) and Troy's Makhi Durrett (.554 average, 31 hits, 20 RBI) are among those to watch heading into State.

"I've been really proud of these guys, the way they've worked hard to be able to get there," Kendrick coach Kyle Jones said after the Tigers topped Troy in their district title game. "It's been a really cool ride and we're just excited to keep it rolling."

The opening round begins today with Kendrick facing Idaho City at 8 a.m. Pacific, Clearwater Valley facing Lighthouse Christian at 11 a.m. Pacific, Potlatch facing Glenns Ferry at 2 p.m. Pacific and Troy facing Vision Charter at 5 p.m. Pacific.

Maniacs enter with 22-2 record with Grangeville right on their heels

Orofino wasn't perfect this season, but it was close to it.

The Maniacs (22-2) are making their fourth straight trip to the 2A state tournament and they're hoping this is the time they'll come home with a championship trophy. They will face Firth (16-11) at 11:30 a.m. Pacific on Thursday in Pocatello in the first round.

Joining them in the 2A tourney is conference-foe Grangeville, which Orofino defeated 4-3 in extra innings in their district tournament championship. The Bulldogs (21-4) play defending-champion Malad (14-8) at 5 p.m. Pacific on Thursday.

"We're grateful for the opportunity to go down and be one of the eight teams in the tournament," Orofino coach Scotty Tondevold said. "We have six seniors (and) this will be their fourth year in a row going to the state tournament. ... The guys are excited and they should be."

Orofino's biggest strength might be its balanced roster. Aiden Olive (46 runs) and Jaeger Tondevold (38) are the scoring leaders, Dash Barlow and Bodey Howell pace the group with 30 RBI apiece and Silas Naranjo does a bit of everything.

The Maniacs also have five core pitchers who "could go out there on any day and do a (great) job for us," Tondevold said.

Asotin, Pomeroy already underway

The Washington state tournaments for Pomeroy (1B) and Asotin (2B) are already underway.

On Tuesday, the Pirates were eliminated in the first round by Orcas Island 2-1 and the Panthers defeated Liberty Bell 2-1 in their respective tourneys. More information about those games can be found in the Tribune's area roundup.

Wiebe may be contacted at (208) 848-2260, swiebe@lmtribune.com or on Twitter @StephanSports.