PASCO - Wa-Hi charges into spring break in about as good a position as first-year coach Keith Gradwohl could have dared to hope for here Friday following the Blue Devils' monster doubleheader sweep of Chiawana in both teams' Cascade Division baseball opener.
"We played pretty good. We are happy," Gradwohl said after watching his squad dispatch the Riverhawks 18-1 and 16-1.
"We start off the division with two wins, and we've got a four-game winning streak going into spring break," Gradwohl continued. "These are real confidence-builders. The kids are buying into what we want to do."
And Gradwohl likes the way the schedule is mapped out in front of his team.
The Blue Devils return to action in a non-counting cross-division single game at Davis Thursday, and they entertain Southridge April 6 in a cross-division doubleheader at Murr Field. Wa-Hi won't return to Cascade Division play until April 9 when it travels to Eastmont for a pair of games.
About the only thing Gradwohl would change so far is his team's season-opening loss to Pendleton at Murr Field, a game in which an umpire's interference call wiped out what appeared to be the winning run for Wa-Hi in the bottom of the seventh inning and led to a 6-2 Buckaroos victory in 10 innings.
"That was a tough loss, a game we thought we had won," Gradwohl recalled.
There were no such dramatics here Friday as the Blue Devils dominated the young Riverhawks - Chiawana is a new Pasco high school that has no seniors on its roster - from start to finish. Both games were called after five innings via the 10-run mercy rule.
Ryan James pitched all five innings in the opener, limited Chiawana to one run on four hits, struck out three and didn't issue a walk. And his teammates backed him with a 14-hit assault.
Justin Mathews slapped a pair of singles, scored three times, stole a pair of bases and drove in a run in the game. Brett Christina singled, doubled and drove home two runs, and Kevin Toon rapped two singles and collected three RBIs.
"The big inning was the first when we scored five times," Gradwohl said.
Jake Campeau's two-run triple was the big blow in the first frame, the coach said, and Tyler Stevenson slugged a two-run home run as Wa-Hi finished off the game with a six-run volley in the fifth.
Aaron Flippo, who was one of 11 Blue Devils to contribute at least one hit in the opener, picked up the Blue Devils' offensive in the nightcap with three hits, including a grand slam home run in the second inning. Flippo also tripled in the first inning and scored on a Mathews double, and later added a run-scoring single to finish the game with five RBIs and the doubleheader with four hits.
"Aaron Flippo had an outstanding day," Gradwohl said of his senior left fielder. "He had four hits on the day, and his five RBIs in the second game were clutch."
Brett Christina added two singles and two runs scored in the second game. Jake Jimenez had a pair of hits, including a two-run double, and James tripled in the third to knock in two runs and added a single later on.
Drew Christina pitched the first four innings and struck out seven while allowing both Chiawana hits and the Riverhawks' lone run. Toon pitched an uneventful fifth inning for the Blue Devils.
"Our mantra going into this season was that we would play hard," said Gradwohl, who is in his second stint as Wa-Hi's head coach. "And we are playing hard."
Wa-Hi 514 26 - 18 14 1
Chiawana 000 01 - 1 4 4
James and Meyer; Graff, M. Smith (4), J. Smith (5) and Weiss.
HR - Wa-Hi, Stevenson.
Hits - Wa-Hi: Mathews 2, Flippo, B. Christina 2, Toon 2, James, Handcox, Jimenez, Stevenson, Meyer, Campeau, Webb; Chiawana: Edrington, Graff, Weiss, Thornhill.
Wa-Hi 146 23 - 16 10 0
Chiawana 000 10 - 1 2 4
D. Christina, Toon (5) and Holbrook; Thornhill, Burgess (4) and Weiss.
HR - WW, Flippo.
Hits - WW: Holbrook, Flippo 3, B. Christina 2, Jimenez 2, James 2; Chiawana: Graff.