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Pitchers expected to dominate on the diamond

MHC BASEBALL PREVIEW -- Centennial and Reynolds are top contenders
by: David Ball, Reynolds pitcher Brent Holbrook fires a fastball during a game last spring. He returns after an all-league season on the mound in 2006.

Teams reached double-digits on a regular basis during the 2006 baseball season, but the return of several top pitching staffs should result in more low-scoring affairs this spring.

Those quality throwers could also help the likes of Centennial, Reynolds and David Douglas move from the middle of the pack to the top of the league standings. Defending champion Central Catholic graduated its top pitcher and top hitter, leaving the door open to new contenders.

'I'm expecting it to be like it is most years in our conference,' David Douglas coach Mike Fitz said. 'There is no one dominant team that's going to run away with it. There are five wide-open spots for the playoffs - it's just a matter of who gets hot.'

Following are previews of the five local teams:

- D. DOUGLAS -

The Scots will rely on the talented 1-2 pitching combination of seniors Trent Golleher and Evan Berry to improve on last year's six-win season.

'They both throw with a lot of movement and get the ball up and down in the strike zone,' Fitz said. 'We will be able to stay in every game with those guys on the mound - we aren't going to get punched out very often.'

Douglas will need to improve its offense after being shut out three times last year and being held to two runs or less three other times.

The Scots showed improvement during the summer, reaching the second-round of the 'AAA' legion playoffs.

- REYNOLDS -

The Raiders bring a deep pitching staff to the diamond this spring with up to seven players expected to take the mound. The group is led by senior Brent Holbrook, who was an all-conference thrower last season.

'He gives us a lefty with some big velocity,' Reynolds coach Kelly Larkin said. 'He can throw it by people, but he's also worked hard at finding the zone with his breaking pitches.'

Junior Cody Ching gives the Raiders another left-handed option, while right-handers Zar Swanson and Vinny Kahklen round out the regular rotation.

The Raiders struggled to a 1-5 record in one-run games last season. Reversing that record would have moved Reynolds from missing the playoffs to the league's No. 3 seed.

- CENTENNIAL -

The Eagles are poised for a league title run behind a healthy stable of pitchers and a potent offensive attack. Centennial returns three right-handers from last year's pitching staff in seniors Dustin Tanquary and John DeBlock along with junior Jake Shoda.

'All three of those guys can move between changeups and breaking balls - they can throw up to three pitches for strikes at any time in the count,' Eagles' coach Brent Child said.

Centennial also has plenty of talented young players coming off the bench after it's 'A' legion team finished second in state last summer.

- GRESHAM -

Gresham had a shot at the league title going into the final game of the regular season before settling for the runner-up spot behind Central Catholic last year. The Gophers return all-star seniors Joe Schiller (pitcher) and Justin Reeves (utility).

- BARLOW -

The Bruins are under the direction of first-year coach Craig Webster, who led the AAA legion team during the summer.