BASEBALL: Wilder Senior hosting Senior Babe Ruth State tournament with loaded pitching staff
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Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News
Wilder Senior pitcher Nick Johnston, who played at Sequim High School, pitches against Wilder Junior during the Firecracker Classic last week. Johnston is the ace of deep Wilder Senior pitching staff.

By Lee Horton
Peninsula Daily News

Wilder Senior Roster
#1 - Curan Bradley (Port Angeles/2016), OF/P
#2 - Ryan Mudd (Port Angeles/2014), 3B/2B/P
#3 - Jordan Shepherd (Port Angeles/2014), P/OF
#6 - Brady Konopaski (Port Angeles/2014), SS/P
#7/#5 - Brett Wright (Sequim/2014), OF/C
#8 - Ricky Crawford (Port Angeles/2015), C/P
#10 - Eathen Boyer (Port Angeles/2016), C/OF/P
#12 - Dusty Bates (Sequim/2015), OF
#14 - Nick Johnson (Sequim/2014), P/1B/OF
#16 - James Grubb (Sequim/2017), OF/P
#20 - Zach Withrow (Port Angeles/2014), 2B
#30 - Larsson Chapman (Port Angeles/2014), 1B
#32 - Tanner Gochnour (Port Angeles/2016), OF
#36 - Evan Hurn (Sequim/2016), 2B/3B
#38 - Tanner Rhodefer (Sequim/2015), OF/P
#40 - Travis Paynter (Port Angeles/2016), P/3B
PORT ANGELES — The Northern Washington Senior Babe Ruth state tournament is set up nicely for the Wilder senior team.

For starters, the tournament, which begins today and runs through Sunday, is hosted by Wilder Baseball and Port Angeles Parks and Recreation so all games will be held at Civic Field.

“We're familiar with the park, we get to sleep in our own beds, this has been our routine for the pasts few months,” Wilder Senior coach Mike Politika said of the advantages of playing the tournament at home.

“I think when you're familiar, your confidence will rise.”

Wilder's senior and junior teams will battle three teams from throughout the state — the Columbia Basin Desert Dogs, Spokane Crew and Bellevue-based Lakeside Recovery — in a round-robin tournament.

The top-ranked team at the end of Sunday's action will advance to the Babe Ruth World Series in Ephrata on Aug. 7-13.

The No. 2 team, meanwhile, moves on to the regional tournament July 21-26 in Vancouver, Wash.

Another thing Wilder Senior has going for it is a deep pitching staff.

It starts at the top with ace Nick Johnston and Travis Paynter forming a formidable one-two punch.

In last week's Firecracker Classic, Johnston and Paynter didn't have to spend much time on the mound because of the bevy of able arms behind them, including Jordan Shepherd, Curan Bradley and Tanner Rhodefer, who started and won the Firecracker championship game.

Wilder also has a stable of relievers to come in and throw a few innings or close out a game, such as Ryan Mudd, James Grubb, Ricky Crawford and Brady Konopaski.

“It's important to have quality [pitchers],” Politika said. “If a guy struggles, we have guys who can come in and keep us in the game.”

Wilder (20-3) enters the state tournament having won nine straight games, including going 5-0 at the Firecracker Classic, and playing some of its best baseball of the summer.

“I think we're hitting our stride,” Politika said.

But, Politika adds, Wilder will likely need to be at the top of its game to prolong its season.

“We're facing better competition than what we've seen so far,” he said.

“We definitely have to play our best. I think if we play our best, we can be in every game.”

The only familiar opponent Wilder Senior will play is Wilder Junior. The two area squads face off Sunday at 11:30 a.m.

The senior team beat the junior team 5-1 at the Firecracker Classic, their only meeting of the summer so far.

Wilder Junior went 1-4 at the Firecracker, its only victory coming against winless Klahowya.

Wilder Junior has played Lakeside Recovery four times in the past few months, winning one of four.

Lakeside (32-18) features players from Issaquah, Skyline, Newport and Monroe high schools.

Wilder Senior's veteran players have experience playing Columbia Basin teams, though not the Desert Dogs, specifically.

The Columbia Basin River Dogs won the 2013 state tournament — Wilder took second — and then eliminated Wilder from regionals before advancing to the Babe Ruth World Series in Covington County, Ala.

As the host of this year's World Series, the River Dogs automatically qualify for next month's national tournament, so the Desert Dogs are playing at state.

The Desert Dogs, who face Wilder Junior in the state opener today at 11 a.m. at Civic Field, are Columbia Basin's second team, but Politika said he expects their talent to be near the level of the River Dogs.

The Spokane Crew, who face Wilder Senior today at 2 p.m., is coming off a Firecracker Classic championship of their own, winning the tournament Yakima last week.

All state tournament games are at Civic Field, and there is no admission fee for spectators.



Northern Washington Babe Ruth State Tournament Schedule

Friday

Wilder Junior
vs. Columbia Basin, 11 a.m.

Spokane vs. Wilder Senior, 2 p.m.

Lakeside vs. Wilder Junior, 5 p.m.

Saturday

Spokane vs. Columbia Basin, 11 a.m.

Wilder Senior vs. Lakeside, 2 p.m.

Wilder Junior vs. Spokane, 5 p.m.

Sunday

Columbia Basin vs. Lakeside, 9 a.m.

Wilder Senior vs. Wilder Junior, 11:30 a.m.

Lakeside vs. Spokane, 2:30 p.m.

Columbia Basin vs. Wilder Senior, 5:30 p.m.

Last modified: July 10. 2014 6:09PM
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