BASEBALL PREVIEW:Why Chewelah baseball is a scary team in the NEA League this year

(Geno Ludwig/Chewelah Independent)

With experience and talent (and pitching!), Cougars will be tough to beat in 2018 season…

A solid core of veteran seniors and juniors return to a Cougar baseball team that placed second behind Freeman in the Northeast A League a year ago, and the preseason outlook is favorable for another run for the conference pennant.

With five seniors and five juniors back in uniform, the Cougars do not lack in experience. Most of them have played together since Little League so there is a long-time camaraderie that continues to hold the team together. There are only two positions to be filled that were vacated by graduation, and there are two players who decided not to return to the team this spring, but there are an abundance of eager underclassmen who are competing to make the opening day roster.

“I believe we have the most experienced and talented team in the league,” said Coach Sawyer Bardwell. “I think we will also have the best pitching. Our seniors should have a great season. We just can’t beat ourselves. We need to show up ready to play every game.”

Returning seniors are shortstop Elan Krausz, second baseman Zarren Nelson, centerfielder Gavin Parrott, rightfielder Dylan Davis and utility infielder/outfielder Pearson Grooms. Juniors returning to their positions are catcher Carl Oman, first baseman Zak Kubik and pitchers Justin Rollis and Jerry Kramer. John Larson appears to be the prime candidate to start at third base. Krausz, Parrott and Oman are returning all-league players.

Gavin Parrott

Krausz and Parrott will provide power at the plate for the Cougars. Krausz batted .422 last season with 27 hits, 23 runs and 29 runs batted in. Parrott batted .417 with 25 hits, 16 runs and 12 runs batted in. Kubik finished last season batting .349, and Nelson hit .304.

As always, pitching is a question mark at the beginning of a new season. Parrott was scheduled to get the first start on the mound for the Cougars against East Valley, with Rollis starting on the hill in the second game of the doubleheader. Krausz, Grooms and Davis will also be doing some throwing. The addition of senior Brice Frederick to the bullpen could be a wild card for the Cougars.

With Parrott being moved to centerfield, there has been strong competition among Grooms, Jake George and Caleb Whittekiend to earn the empty position. Whittekiend will also be the team’s reserve catcher.

Elan Krausz

The two obvious goals this season for the Cougars are to improve last year’s 10-4 league record and to avoid a second district tournament setback.
Like every other team in the area, the Cougars have struggled to get practice time on their home field. Games against East Valley and Springdale have had to be postponed because the infield resembled chocolate pudding.

“We finally got in some batting practice on our field last week, but we have not gotten any infield practice yet,” said Bardwell. “We have spent a lot of practice time mixing sand with the clay in hopes of drying it up. The sunshine and wind have also helped. Right now our hitting looks good, and that will be a major factor in our season. We just need some time to work on our fielding.”

Bardwell thinks Freeman, Deer Park, Colville and Chewelah will be the top contenders for this year’s league title, with Newport being the possible Cinderella team.

“Freeman lost six or seven starters, but they seem to always reload,” said Bardwell. “Both Colville and Deer Park should be strong again this year. Medical Lake has a new coach, so I expect some changes there. And Newport seems to be getting more athletes turning out for baseball this year. Every team has one or more all-league players returning. A lot will depend on how they are able to fill the rest of their lineup.”

League: Northeast 1A League
Coach: Sawyer Bardwell
Team Breakdown: The Cougars return five seniors and five juniors from last year’s 10-4 NEA League squad, meaning they know how to win and they have the talent to do it. Keep an eye on Elan Krausz and Gavin Parrott, who are Chewelah’s version of the Bash Brothers

1 Lukas Kubik (SS) Fresh.
2 Zarren Nelson (INF) Sen.
5 Johnny Larson (RHP) Jun.
6 Jerry Kramer (UTL) Jun.
8 Zack Kubik (1B) Jun.
10 Milo Cuti (OF) Sen.
11 Carl Oman (C) Jun.
12 Jake George (RHP) Soph.
13 Gavin Parrot (OF) Sen.
14 Jake Jeanneret (RHP) Soph.
15 Dylan Davis (OF) Sen.
16 Jordan Crouch (OF) Sen.
17 Caleb Whittekiend (C) Jun.
20 Justin Rollis (RHP) Jun.
21 Pearson Grooms (3B) Jun.
22 Andrew Sweat (LHP) Fresh.
23 Cole Davis (3B) Fresh.
24 Elan Krausz (INF) Sen.
26 Nick Franks (OF) Fresh.
27 Brice Fredericks (RHP) Sen.
30 Sam Triplett (RHP) Soph.
Coach: Sawyer Bardwell
Assistants: Ken Chartey, Matt Robertson

Mar. 30 at Riverside 4 p.m.
April 10 at Newport 4:30 p.m.
April 13 DEER PARK 4:30 p.m.
April 14 at Deer Park 12 p.m.
April 17 at Lakeside 4:30 p.m.
April 20 MEDICAL LAKE 4:30 p.m.
April 21 at Medical Lake 12 p.m.
April 24 COLVILLE 4:30 p.m.
April 27 at Freeman 4:30 p.m.
April 28 NEWPORT 12 p.m.
May 1 RIVERSIDE 4:30 p.m.
May 3 LAKESIDE 4:30 p.m.
May 4 FREEMAN 4:30 p.m.
May 5 League tie-breakers 12 a.m.

Home games in ALL CAPS