By Doug Flanagan
World sports writer
There’s no question that the Wenatchee AppleSox and Corvallis Knights have been the West Coast League’s two dominant franchises since the circuit’s inception in 2005.
From 2005 to 2011, the AppleSox advanced to the WCL championship series five times, winning four titles. The Knights made four championship series, winning two titles (including last year). In 2008, Corvallis beat Wenatchee for the championship; the next season, the AppleSox defeated the Knights.
The fact that both organizations have won on a consistent basis is not a coincidence.
“Part of the (reason for both teams’ success) is continuity — ownership as well as the coaching side of it,” said Wenatchee manager Ed Knaggs. “Like us, they create good relationships with schools and their players. Our players have a good experience in Wenatchee, and their players have a good experience in Corvallis.”
Therefore, it’s no surprise that the teams will meet for the 2012 WCL championship. The East Division champion AppleSox will take on the Knights, the West Division titlists, at 6:40 p.m. today in the first game of the best-of-three series at Goss Stadium in Corvallis. The second game is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Friday at Paul Thomas Sr. Baseball Stadium; if necessary, a third game will take place Saturday in Wenatchee.
“Ed does a nice job of getting athletic guys that can run, and he does a nice job of getting arms,” said Corvallis manager Brooke Knight. “Ever year they give themselves every opportunity to be there at the end and take care of business.”
While Corvallis swept Cowlitz in its first-round series, Wenatchee was taken to a decisive third game in its series against Bellingham. The AppleSox advanced with a thrilling 6-3 win Tuesday in Wenatchee.
“It’s always real neat to watch the guys come together as a group,” Knaggs said. “This group is very similar to other groups we’ve had; they’ve taken on their own personality, and they’ve been real consistent throughout the year. I think we’re all looking forward to the end (of the summer) in some respects; these guys need to get to school and hopefully see their families. But we’re happy to be here and excited to play for the championship.”
Both managers feel good about the way their pitching is lining up for the series. Wenatchee will start Trevor Lubking (3.72 earned-run average, 35 strikeouts, 46 innings) tonight, and will follow with James Kaprielian (1.80, 20, 15) in Game 2 and Derek Callahan (2.59, 56, 62.2) in the third contest. Lubking is well-rested, having thrown only one inning of relief against the Bells. Knaggs is also excited to have Beau Kerns, who tossed seven dominant innings Tuesday, available in relief to set up for Tony Bryant and record-setting closer Tyler Kane.
Dylan Stuart (3.19, 21, 28) will start for Corvallis tonight, with Greg Mahle — who threw a no-hitter against Cowlitz in his only start of the season on Aug. 3 — going in the second game. Knight said his starter for a potential third game is still to be determined.
Corvallis finished the regular season with a 32-22 record, including a 2-4 mark against the AppleSox.
“(Our games) are always hard-fought,” Knight said. “They’re generally pitchers’ duels, close games, real exciting. I was excited to see that Wenatchee made it (to the final series). It will be a strong atmosphere both here and up there.”