Landon Johnston will lead Bulldog baseball

KF should be competitiveFormer 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. It’s a commute that has already included a highway run-in with those dreaded blacktop magnates of mayhem—the whitetail deer.“It’s exciting to be here,” 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. “The kids want to be here and want to play.”For a variety of reasons, Johnston inherits a Kettle Falls team that has lost a handful of starters who, after last spring’s 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.That’s out of Johnston’s control. ‘Our goal as a group is to build a program.’“We are still going to be in the mix,” Johnston said. “We have some good kids who are excited to play and get the season going. Our goal as a group is to build a program. I’d like to see us win a state championship in four years.”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.“I like the direction we’re going,” he says. “I think we can turn some heads. We will be right in it…our goal is to take it one step further than last year.“We don’t feel like this is a building year.”Johnson hopes that the community comes out to support his first KFHS baseball product this spring. “We are looking forward to getting on the field and we’re looking forward to the community’s support (of the program),” 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. ABOUT JOHNSTONJohnston, 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 Bachelor’s 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 Masters’ 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). “Counseling is more compatible with coaching,” Johnston said of his decision to pursue a different career path. “I have a passion for baseball and I love to coach. This is where I want to be.”AT A GLANCEThe 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. “We have some good juniors,” Johnston said. “Tyler (Vining) hasn’t played much for awhile (rehabbing a knee injury), but he’ll be one of our top pitchers. Logan (Cook) is a very solid catcher (threw out 11 of 15 base-runners last spring).” And Thomas returns as the team’s 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 athlete—Kyle Hyde. “He’s a sophomore who is playing both baseball and running track,” Johnston said. “He’s a very good athlete and very fast. We are happy to have him and we’ll make it work.”AROUND THE LEAGUEDefending 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 Colfax’s 2012 Class 2B State boy’s 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. ROSTEREric Ross, OF/Utl., frosh, 5-6, 132Stacy Schauls, OF/UTL., frosh, 5-9, 135Paulo Monteiro, OF/UTL., sr., 5-7, 125Kevin Owens, OF/UTL., sr., 6-0, 180Jeff Thomas, OF/RHP, jr., 6-0, 180Tyler Vining, INF/RHP, jr., 6-0, 195Reuben Winter, INF/RHP, sr., 5-7, 205Brandon Thomas, OF/LHP, jr., 5-11, 170Devin Thompson, INF/frosh, 5-4, 105Logan Cook, C/RHP, jr., 6-0, 155Nathan Disque, INF/RHP, jr., 5-11, 155Garrett Anderson, OF/UTL, frosh, 5-5, 113Keilson Pen Ching, INF/DH, sr., 5-8, 215Casey Hall, INF/UTL, frosh, 5-7, 162Brode Masterson, INF/UTL, frosh, 5-8, 160Brent McNeil, INF/LHP, sr., 6-2, 165Brady Hansen, C/UTL, frosh, 5-11, 155Kyle Hyde, OF/UTL, So., 5-7, 135