For the first time since before the pandemic, the Central 2B League season won’t be one big giant-slaying quest.
For two seasons, 2B baseball in District 4 — and the state, for that matter — has been a matter of Toutle Lake vs. the field, and while the field caught up to the Ducks both in the district and state title games, both results were momentous upsets.
This time around, with Jackson Cox safely three states away at the Colorado Rockies’ spring training facility, Toutle Lake is down to just two Division I arms, and already looks that much more mortal. And with a whole lot of local teams returning talent, this could be the year everything turns back into the bloodbath that defines so many seasons in other C2BL sports.
Start with Toledo, which proved that things were changing in a big way, opening their season with a two-game sweep of Toutle Lake — the Ducks’ first regular-season league losses since 2019. The Riverhawks, who made the state tournament last season as the fifth team out of the district, bring back all-league ace Caiden Schultz, who kicked off his season with a six-inning, 15-strikeout performance to shut the Ducks down.
Keeping on the theme of dominant pitchers, Adna has one of its own in Tristan Percival. The specs-wearing southpaw won’t be lighting up the speed gun, but is back on the hill to befuddle hitters with movement and offspeed for another season. Behind him, the Pirates return a good chunk of their bats, with a top-to-bottom lineup that’s already won some big games this season.
Of course, we can’t forget the reigning district champs; Napavine brings back almost all of its pieces from the team that stunned Toutle Lake in last year’s title game to defend its crown, with Connor Holmes leading things on the mound and at the top of the lineup, and Ashton Demarest behind the dish.
Down in Cowlitz County, it’s not like the Ducks have simply disappeared. On the basis of pure stuff, Toutle Lake may still have the best two arms in the league, with Portland commit Connor Cox stepping into his brother’s role at the top of the rotation, and Oregon State commit Zach Swanson behind him. They’ll be enough to win a few games just the two of them. Further south, Kalama and Wahkiakum are never easy outs in a league with few to no days off.
And come districts, someone’s going to have to deal with Pe Ell-Willapa Valley, which will contend with Forks and Ilwaco at the top of the Pacific 2B League. The Titans have already won one league doubleheader by a combined score of 38-0 (in five total innings), and are stacking their schedule with non-league tests to get them ready for the postseason.
Coach: Thad Nelson (first)
2022 record: 13-6 (districts)
Player(s) to watch: Tristan Percival, Luke Mohney, Asher Guerrero
Coach: Brian Demarest (ninth)
2022 record: 15-6 (state)
Player(s) to watch: Ashton Demarest, Jack Nelson, Austin Chapman
Coach: Mack Gaul (second)
2022 record: 16-9 (state)
Player(s) to watch: Caiden Schultz, Rogan Stanley, Kaven Winters
Coach: Cole Doughty (second)
2022 record: 1-13
Player(s) to watch: James Cusson, Carter Svenson, Kyrin Meehan
Coach: Joe Hamre (first)
2022 record: 2-7
Player(s) to watch: Brecken Pelletier
Coach: Mark Mounts (16th)
2022 record: 3-14
Player(s) to watch: John Kenney, Hunter Howell, Gavin Owen
Coach: Kent Smaciarz (first)
2022 record: 10-6 (districts)
Player(s) to watch: Blake Howard, Garrett Keeton, Connor Keeton