KF should be competitive
Former Inchelium High baseball coach Landon Johnston has taken over the reigns as the new baseball coach at Kettle Falls High School.
Johnston, counselor at Inchelium School, replaces longtime coach Jeff Graves.
Johnston, a former newspaper sports editor, is happy to be coaching at Kettle Falls, despite the lengthy daily commute from his home in Inchelium. Itâs a commute that has already included a highway run-in with those dreaded blacktop magnates of mayhemâthe whitetail deer.
âItâs exciting to be here,â Johnston said before a practice last Thursday afternoon in the back parking lot at Kettle Falls Middle School. Snow still covers the baseball field at Kettle Falls. âThe kids want to be here and want to play.â
For a variety of reasons, Johnston inherits a Kettle Falls team that has lost a handful of starters who, after last springâs successful second place campaign in the Northeast 2B League (Bi-County), were projected to make the Bulldogs a favorite this spring. Two key starters, a pitcher and outfielder, transferred to Colville and Northport, respectively. Others have chosen not to turn out.
Thatâs out of Johnstonâs control.
âOur goal as a group is to build a program.â
âWe are still going to be in the mix,â Johnston said. âWe have some good kids who are excited to play and get the season going. Our goal as a group is to build a program. Iâd like to see us win a state championship in four years.â
The upbeat Johnston, who has 18 players out (not enough to field a junior varsity squad), says he has a team that can turn some heads and surprise a few people this spring.
âI like the direction weâre going,â he says. âI think we can turn some heads. We will be right in itâŠour goal is to take it one step further than last year.
âWe donât feel like this is a building year.â
Johnson hopes that the community comes out to support his first KFHS baseball product this spring.
âWe are looking forward to getting on the field and weâre looking forward to the communityâs support (of the program),â Johnston said, adding that he promises to make it a fun environment.
Expect a solid product on the field, music wafting from the PA system, an announcer, concessions and even team gear for sale.
Johnston, a 2000 Cheney High School graduate, played baseball and basketball for the Blackhawks. He also played hockey (Spokane Americans). Johnston played two years at Grays Harbor Community College (converted to catcher) and played two years at Eastern Oregon University, where he started at catcher for the NAIA Mounties.
With a Bachelorâs Degree in Media Arts (emphasis in Journalism), he continued his baseball career with the Saskatoon Baseball Club of the Western Major Baseball League (comprised of college players from around the far reaches of North America). Johnston played one season in the prairies of Saskatchewan before working as a beat writer and sports writer for the Mountain Home News (Boise, Idaho area) and the Cortez (Colorado) Journal.
Johnson said he missed coaching and decided to make a career change. He graduated from Eastern Washington University with a Mastersâ of Science in Applied Psychology (with an emphasis in school counseling) and took a job with the Inchelium School District. He also worked as a coach for the now defunct Spokane Rattlers baseball team while he was in grad school at EWU. During his newspaper tenure, Johnston also worked as an assistant baseball coach at Mountain View High School (Idaho).
âCounseling is more compatible with coaching,â Johnston said of his decision to pursue a different career path.
âI have a passion for baseball and I love to coach. This is where I want to be.â
AT A GLANCE
The Bulldogs will rely on several juniors and some talented freshmen this spring.
Among the leaders are juniors: 6-0, 195-pound right-hander and infielder Tyler Vining; catcher/pitcher Logan Cook; Brandon Thomas and Nathan Disque.
âWe have some good juniors,â Johnston said. âTyler (Vining) hasnât played much for awhile (rehabbing a knee injury), but heâll be one of our top pitchers. Logan (Cook) is a very solid catcher (threw out 11 of 15 base-runners last spring).â
And Thomas returns as the teamâs top hitter (.540 Slugging Percentage, .381 BA and tied for the team lead with 13 RBI).
Disque committed only two errors in 120 innings last spring at second base.
Johnston and veteran KFHS assistant coach Caleb Edwards also will work to find a spot for a rare two-sport spring athleteâKyle Hyde.
âHeâs a sophomore who is playing both baseball and running track,â Johnston said. âHeâs a very good athlete and very fast. We are happy to have him and weâll make it work.â
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Defending Northeast 2B champion and perennial State 1A or 2B baseball power Colfax is the prohibitive league favorite again. The Bulldogs return a solid nucleus of players, many who were part of Colfaxâs 2012 Class 2B State boyâs basketball championship team. CHS beat fellow Bi-County rival Northwest Christian in the title game back on March 3.
The Bulldogs were scheduled to open the season with a Jamboree at Chewelah with the Cougars and Colville on Saturday. But that has been postponed and may be rescheduled for sometime this week.
The Bulldogs will open their season on Saturday, March 17 against Omak. The opener is scheduled for Kettle Falls, but depending on whether KFHS can get their field in shape by then, Omak may host.
Eric Ross, OF/Utl., frosh, 5-6, 132
Stacy Schauls, OF/UTL., frosh, 5-9, 135
Paulo Monteiro, OF/UTL., sr., 5-7, 125
Kevin Owens, OF/UTL., sr., 6-0, 180
Jeff Thomas, OF/RHP, jr., 6-0, 180
Tyler Vining, INF/RHP, jr., 6-0, 195
Reuben Winter, INF/RHP, sr., 5-7, 205
Brandon Thomas, OF/LHP, jr., 5-11, 170
Devin Thompson, INF/frosh, 5-4, 105
Logan Cook, C/RHP, jr., 6-0, 155
Nathan Disque, INF/RHP, jr., 5-11, 155
Garrett Anderson, OF/UTL, frosh, 5-5, 113
Keilson Pen Ching, INF/DH, sr., 5-8, 215
Casey Hall, INF/UTL, frosh, 5-7, 162
Brode Masterson, INF/UTL, frosh, 5-8, 160
Brent McNeil, INF/LHP, sr., 6-2, 165
Brady Hansen, C/UTL, frosh, 5-11, 155
Kyle Hyde, OF/UTL, So., 5-7, 135