The CWAC’s best baseball teams proved themselves more than capable of competing with anyone in Class 2A over the last five years, as Selah or Ellensburg appeared in every state championship and won the last three titles.
But before this year’s scheduling changes to eliminate doubleheaders between the league’s top five teams and the bottom five — based on recent history — the Vikings and Bulldogs had few chances to face the state’s top teams before the postseason. Both Selah and Ellensburg easily filled out their seven-game nonleague schedules long before this school year started, setting up several high-profile matchups.
“It’s kind of neat to go play some different opponents,” said Todd Gibson, coach of the two-time defending champion Bulldogs. “There’s some teams that I had never associated with or knew of that just wanted to challenge themselves.”
In the end he had to turn some of them down but still scheduled six games against teams that reached the 2A state tournament a year ago. Selah’s Mike Archer said his team’s canceled season opener against 2018 quarterfinalist Sehome likely won’t be rescheduled, but the Vikings do plan to host two top teams this week in W.F. West and Steilacoom.
The CWAC’s balance of power is even more pronounced in softball, which saw the top five teams win all 50 games against the bottom five by at least 10 runs. Selah’s Bill Harris said seven nonleague games rather than two should help his team improve more throughout the season and he expects more parity in Division 1 this year after co-champions Selah and Ellensburg lost more key seniors than the other three teams — East Valley, Ephrata and Othello.
All five of those schools will play just one game against Division 2 opponents Quincy, Prosser, Wapato, Toppenish and Grandview, none of which came close to knocking off Division 1 teams last year. The gap in baseball looked a little smaller, and Gibson said a Division 2 team’s No. 1 starter could certainly pick up a win against a Division 1 opponent.
“I would say that a couple of those teams have always given us a good challenge and are pretty respectable teams in terms of being able to play us for a game,” Gibson said.
The second game of those doubleheaders would highlight the difference in pitching depth, and one look at the numbers tells a clear story. Ellensburg outscored Division 2 teams 132-18 in 10 wins a year ago and Selah was even better, posting a 134-7 margin against those five opponents while also going 10-0.
It gave younger players or even little-used upperclassmen a chance to get on the field, and Gibson said he’ll miss those opportunities to build his depth. But Archer plans to keep going deep into his bench, so he said tougher challenges would be more valuable, especially for his pitchers.
“Before, you had to make a coaching decision on who you thought were your best guys,” Archer said. “You didn’t have the competition to measure.”
Harris said Selah tried not to change its approach and focused on ending games quickly, outscoring Division 2 opponents 186-1 last season. Ellensburg won those 10 games by a combined margin of 197-4.
Prosser baseball doesn’t quite fit the new scheduling narrative a year after going 8-0 against its fellow Division 2 opponents while outscoring them 95-25, and the Mustangs even swept Division 1 Othello to capture fifth place. Coach Steve Schorzman dislikes the change and noted the Mustangs would probably be in Division 1 if not for jury duty that limited his presence during a 5-15 season two years ago, and he’d prefer to see the divisions based on geography, which would exchange East Valley for Quincy with North and South divisions.
“(My players) want to prove themselves,” Schorzman said. “They’re a competitive group ... they want to play against the best.”
The top eight CWAC teams — all five from Division 1 and three from Division 2 — will meet in an expanded district tournament held at Carlon Park for softball and Yakima County Stadium for baseball.