The West Kootenay Diamondbacks clinched the Washington State American Legion AA Federal Division regular season title on Monday at Butler Park ensuring their spot in what is becoming a controversial district tournament in Spokane this week.
The Diamondbacks needed one win in their final doubleheader against Northwest Christian Crusaders to solidify top spot ahead of Colville, 16-4, in the Federal division.
Colville sat just one game behind WKD heading into the final series, but the Dbacks Joe Ferraro got it out of the way early, picking up the win in a 15-5 pasting of the Crusaders in the opening match. Sean Barta then cleaned up a wild second match, where the Dbacks eventually prevailed in a see-saw 19-15 win.
The victories mean the Dbacks finish the season 18-2, the number-one seed in the Federal division and head to the District tournament, along with second-place Colville, where they will play a do-or-die match against Cheney in their first game today.
“I don’t get the schedule,” said co-coach Wayne McIntyre. “We play the second seed of the National Division while the other bracket has the number-4 seed of the National playing the fifth seed from the American – and the loser goes home.”
The schedule also has number-2 Colville taking on the number-1 seed from the National, while the number-3 seed from the National opens by playing the sixth seeded American division squad.
If the Dbacks win the opening elimination game they then face the number-one seed from the American division, while the winner of the four-and-five seed game plays the fourth seed from the American division.
“It just doesn’t make sense,” McIntyre added.
Just two teams from the Federal division advance to the District tournament, while four teams from National go, and six teams from the American Division advance, with the top four American division teams receiving a bye into the second round.
Despite the cryptic bracketing, coach Roger Handley is confident his team will do what it takes to make it into the playoff round.
Pitching may be the main strategic concern with a 10-inning maximum rule in effect for each hurler, says Handley. Once a pitcher throws 10 innings they must rest for three days before taking the mound again.
Deciding who to pitch in the opening elimination match followed by a game against possibly the toughest team in the tournament in Mt. Spokane is crucial. The Dbacks must win the first game against Cheney or go home, yet can afford to lose the second game as the double knock out format takes effect following the first round.
McIntyre is confident in the team’s ability to defeat Cheney after watching them in action last week.
“They are alright but beatable,” said McIntyre, comparing them to Medical Lake, 10-10, a team that finished behind the Dbacks in the Federal division.
Handley is leaning toward Scotty Davidson to get the start in the first match, and replying with Tanner Johnson in Game 2. In the event they do make it to the final, Davidson would then be good to go again on Sunday.
“We’ll play the guys who got us here,” said Handley. “Everyone has had a chance to play, and I feel I can put in anyone in there if I have to. They’re all capable of getting the job done.”
The Dbacks open the tournament against Cheney at 10 a.m. today at A.K. Jackson Park in Spokane, and at 10 a.m. Thursday if they win. The top four advance to the State Championship in Walla Walla, Wash.