Bulldogs, Elks bound for regional baseball tournaments


Montesano will be seeking to clear a traditional baseball hurdle.

Lake Quinault and Oakville, meanwhile, are hoping that Eastern Washington trips become a habit.

The three Grays Harbor teams will enter regional baseball competition on Saturday.

Montesano (21-1) will play in the regional Class 1A tournament at Castle Rock. The Bulldogs will open against Mount Baker at 10 a.m. The winner of that game will face the Woodland-Vashon Island victor for the regional title at 4 p.m.

Southwest Washington rivals Lake Quinault and Oakville will collide in the opening round of a Class 1B regional at 1 p.m. Saturday at West Valley High School in Yakima. The winner of that contest will take on either Pateros or Quilcene for the regional crown at 4 p.m.

All baseball regionals are one-day, single-elimination tripleheaders.

Montesano is hoping to advance to the Class 1A semifinals May 24 at Yakima. Although the Bulldogs will be making their fifth successive regional appearance, they haven’t survived regionals since 1989, when they were state runners-up.

Since the state 1B draw consists of only eight teams, the winner of the Yakima regional advances directly to the state championship game on May 25. After several years in Yakima, the title game in that classification has been shifted this year to Ellensburg.

Quinault and Oakville are both traditional regional participants, with the Elks winning the state title in 2008.

Montesano

Although the Bulldogs suffered their first loss — a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Woodland — at district last week and enter regionals as the No. 3 entry from District IV, they remain the state’s top-ranked 1A team.

Mount Baker’s 10-14 record is deceptive, as the Mountaineers played in a combined 1A/2A/3A conference. They upended Meridian, a team that ousted Montesano in regionals the last two years, to win the Northwest District title and earn the second seed in a Northwest tri-district.

“They seem to be an all-around solid team,” Bulldog coach Mike Bruner said. “They have a pitcher (Nick Larson) who is generally considered off-speed, mixes pitches well and generally keeps people off-balance.”

Mount Baker leadoff hitter Titus Balvanz is a speedster who covers a lot of ground in center field. Tyrel Cronk, the middle linebacker on a football team that lost to the Bulldogs in the state semifinals, is the Mountaineers’ leading power source.

For their part, the Bulldogs aren’t making many alterations in their traditional preparation.

“Right now, we need to continue to polish all aspects of the game, keep hitting on everything, keep everything fresh and we’ll be OK,” Bruner said. “It’s a cliche to win one game at a time, but that’s what we have to do.”

The Bulldogs will open with ace pitcher Layne Bruner, the Evergreen 1A Most Valuable Player, against Mount Baker. Bruner boasts an 8-0 record and an 0.27 earned run average and has struck out 106 in 51 innings.

Coach Bruner was non-committal over a potential starter in the regional final, with seniors Matt Jensen and Tucker Ibabao the candidates.

Elliot Mendenhall leads Montesano hitters with a .500 average and a .621 on-base percentage. Teammates Shad Rogers (.458), Ibabao (.441) and Layne Bruner (.409) are also above the .400 mark.

Class 1B

Lake Quinault and Oakville have met twice during the regular season. The Elks (11-6) won both, but neither by comfortable margins (3-0 and 2-1).

“We have a lot of respect for Oakville,” Quinault coach Keith Samplawski said. “I feel like they’re completely equal to us.”

The first-round regional match-up figures to be a pitching duel between Quinault’s Richy Carlile and Oakville’s Shawn Youckton. Carlile has a 2.28 earned run average for the season.

“Richy is going to have to have a third great game and we have to put the ball in play,” Samplawski said.

Dalton Lines would probably be the second Elk pitcher at regionals. Lines is also batting .509 and has scored a team-high 32 runs. Tyler Colton is batting .489 with 24 runs batted in.