WENATCHEE — There’s been some inconsistency in the play of the Apple Valley Packers during the summer season’s first couple of weeks; if they’re hitting the ball well one game, their pitching and defense might struggle, and vice versa. But head coach Dustin Willis has seen enough positives from his squad that indicate to him that the Packers should be able to win their fair share of games during the next month or so.
The Packers went 2-2 at the Best of the West Tournament in Spokane last weekend to run their season record to 9-6.
After starting the summer by losing three of four games to the Yakima Valley Beetles, a Central Washington American Legion league rival, Apple Valley won all five games it played at the Apple Valley Packer Tournament, held June 13-16. The Packers then split a doubleheader with the perennial league power Twin City Titans last week before competing in Spokane.
“We had a legitimate chance to sweep (the Titans),” Willis said. “Obviously, the Titans have been the premier team in the league the last 10 years or so, so to (split) with those guys (indicates) that we’re moving in the right direction. Hopefully (our play) this week will confirm that.”
Apple Valley will get its first look at the Hanford Flames with two doubleheaders this week — in Richland today and at Recreation Park on Wednesday.
The Packers will then travel to Idaho to play in the Boise Tournament on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
“There’s quality teams in the Boise area,” Willis said. “It’s good for the kids to get out of the (Wenatchee Valley). It’s fun to play teams that are out-of-state. Boise will be a good place to go for these guys.”
Eastmont’s Jacob Crone and Wenatchee’s Kyle Blankenship have been leading the Packers’ pitching staff so far this season as the team’s top two starters.
Willis said that Eastmont’s Carter Haehl has been dealing with some arm fatigue issues, and Wenatchee’s Adam Grubb has been unavailable at times. However, Cashmere’s Mason Elliott and Eastmont’s Tyler Burch have helped to lengthen the team’s rotation, and Eastmont’s Chase Lewallen has provided some valuable relief innings.
“(Crone) and Blankenship have thrown quality innings for us and have anchored the staff,” Willis said. “Mason started a couple games and Tyler has started one and thrown relief, and both of them have been absolutely lights-out. Our depth on the mound was a big question mark at the beginning of the summer, but things are starting to look good for us. Five or six arms are emerging, which will really help us during league play.”
Willis has been impressed with the offensive production of Eastmont’s Griffey Halle and Wenatchee’s Jacob Prater so far.
“Griffey and Jacob have been the mainstays of the lineup. They’ve been the most consistent, and they’ve been doing a good job at the top of the lineup,” WIllis said. “The rest of the guys have been hit and miss. It seems that five guys in our lineup will be swinging the bats well one game, and the other four will struggle, and the five and four will change every day.”