Northport will be tough again

Jeremiah Johnson leads a solid mound corpsIt might be difficult for Northport High to replicate last season’s 18-3 record, but since the Mustangs of coach Don Baribault have become accustomed to success on the baseball field over the years, don’t discount anything.NHS should be strong again, once they can get out of the gym and onto their field—or any field for that matter.In a departure from past season, the Panorama League baseball power will be playing games against the Bi-County 1B South circuit this spring—before the post-season. Almira/Coulee-Hartline, winner of the recent boy’s 1B state basketball tournament in Spokane, should be a team to be reckoned with in the 1B South. Other teams in the 1B Bi-County League include Valley Christian, St. Michael’s, Odessa-Harrington and Wilbur-Creston.“Playing the 1B South in league will make for a much more competitive regular season,” Baribault said last week. PROSPECTSThe Mustangs have as many kids out as they’ve had in years (20). There is a solid mix of veterans, youngster and even foreign exchange students. “I am very excited for this year,” Baribault, who doubles as Northport Principal, added. “We have 20 kids out, and as we are starting to work kids into positions, we have some real battles for playing time.“I think we will be deeper than the last few years.”Seven pitchers working for innings this springAt this point in the gymnasium season, Baribault has seven potential pitchers working. Look for junior Jeremiah Johnson to anchor the staff. The athletic right-hander has enjoyed big seasons on coach Don Fox’s NHS football team and being a key component on one of the most successful Northport basketball seasons in history under Erik Stark. “I think Jeremiah will be dominant on the mound for us this spring,” Baribault said.Juniors Josh Konkler and Brandon Hedrick also look very strong and are battling Kettle Falls High transfer Daulton Burke for time on the mound this spring.Burke will be a key component both offensively and defensively in the NHS line-up. The junior was Kettle’s everyday centerfielder and speedy lead-off hitter last spring. He will likely work at shortstop and in the outfield this spring. The Mustangs lost three key components to that strong 2011 team, but Baribault said he has some young kids who are looking good early.“I have been impressed with our younger kids,” Baribault said. That group is led by freshmen Patrick Lamb (1B, 2B) and Carl Case (2B) and by sophomore Ben Short (2B).Baribault conceded that it’s too early to get into the prediction game, but given Northport’s history of baseball excellence over the years, 2012 should be entertaining.“It’s hard to get too excited hitting inside and taking ground balls on our perfectly groomed gymnasium infield, but everything looks good when you are starting out,” Baribault added. “I’m excited about our prospects this year.”Northport’s football and baseball teams have enjoyed great success this fall and winter. Baribault hopes that carries over to the diamond this spring.“This is a squad that I am really enjoying,” Baribault said. “They are a tremendously fun group of kids to coach. They have enjoyed a very good year of athletics and I hope that continues in the spring.”