Despite the weather being more facilitating of skiing and snowboarding than spring sports, high school baseball season officially is underway in the area.
Several teams are looking to build momentum off of solid seasons in 2022 — many of which included state tournament berths. Here’s what to look for as the season gets going:
Can Troy defend its Idaho Class 1A crown?
The Whitepine League was one of the most competitive leagues in the state. Six teams had winning records and eight wins or more in the league. The top four finishers in the Idaho Class 1A state tournament all hailed from the Whitepine League. Troy downed Genesee 4-3 to win the state title, Prairie placed third and Clearwater Valley of Kooskia was fourth.
The Trojans find themselves in a unique situation at the start of the season as Tyler Strunk has taken charge of the program because former coach Travis House moved out of the area.
“(The process) has been good, it’s been fun,” Strunk said. “It’s been interesting learning the dynamic. Learning each individual on the team — strengths and weaknesses. I am coming into a program that I had no part in up until now. I didn’t watch games last year; I wasn’t familiar with the league and the standings and all of that. So, yeah, it’s been good. It’s been challenging and rewarding and we’re kind of making our way through right now.”
Seven players from the 2022 title team have graduated, but six players return.
Junior Joseph Bendel talked about the importance of the veteran leadership on the roster.
“I would say it’s really important,” Bendel said. “(We’re) teaching the younger kids that we’re a championship program and need to come and treat it like a championship program and that transfers to the coaches.”
The efforts of the underclassmen will be key in the Trojans’ efforts to repeat.
“People are going to have to step up and fill those shoes,” sophomore Makhi Durrett said. “We had some big seniors leave, but I think we have the people who can do it.”
The Garfield-Palouse athletic program suffered significant hits during the pandemic, but now it's getting back on track. This past fall was the first football season for the Vikings in four years. The baseball team now will follow suit, putting a team on the diamond for the first time since 2019.
Garfield-Palouse will be spearheaded by first-year coach Gabe Cocking. What is not known is how much talent the Vikings have and that makes them an enigma going into Southeast 1B League play.
It certainly doesn’t help that, like many other schools, the weather is limiting outside practices for a team with an atypical lack of experience.
But some players competed at Colton last season. The hope is that will offset some early-season jitters for the fledgling team as 12 of the 14 players are freshmen or sophomores.
The Vikings will be interesting to keep tabs on as the season wears on.
Colfax finished fourth in the Washington Class 2B state tournament after a miracle run as the No. 13 seed that included upset wins against fourth-seeded Napavine and fifth-seeded Northwest Christian of Colbert.
The team is bringing back a good number of letterwinners from last year and that should provide much-needed synergy and cohesion for each group.
But the Bulldogs will be without impact players from a year ago.
Matthew DeFord, a junior who played at Colfax last season, will be playing for St. John-Endicott/LaCrosse, his home school. The Eagles failed to field a team a year ago, so DeFord played with the Bulldogs.