Young Jacks looking to prove themselves against the CWAC heavy-hitters

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QUINCY — A year ago, the Quincy Jacks upset No. 7 East Valley in the CWAC tournament and that’s the peg coach Andy Harris is going to hang his hat on as his young team tries to slug its way out of the middle of the pack into playoff contention in 2018.

Kade Schutzmann is the lone senior and they ride that live right arm of his just as far as it will take them.

“We had that experience in the playoffs last year and these kids are ready to step up,” Harris said.

The Jacks beat East Valley in the first round of the CWAC, then lost to Othello in the game to go to the crossover. It was a significant improvement. Schutzmann will be the ace in a young pitching rotation.

“He was my No. 2 last year and pitched really well at the end of the season,” Harris said. “We also have Michael Spence and Andrew Escalante (jr).

“I think where we’re going to succeed is throwing strikes and making plays behind them we’ll be successful in the league.”

They’ll rebuild the middle defense with second baseman Nick Gonzalez, who played last year as a freshman, and Escalante at shortstop. In centerfield, Schutzmann will play outfield when he’s not pitching. “We have a little power. But I think we’re going to be mostly a hit-for-percentage team, move runners along and play small ball quite a bit this year,” Harris said. “We have a lineup that can put the ball in play and hit the gaps. We’re going to run a little bit.

“We have some speed with these young guys, so I’m pretty excited about that.”

Last year, both Selah (20-3) and Ellensburg (23-3) had 20-win seasons and that doesn’t appear to be changing anytime soon. East Valley (16-6) is expected to be a contender again this year. So what Quincy, Ephrata and Othello have to figure out is how to break out of that log jam in the middle of the CWAC to contend at tournament time.

“I think the big thing is to focus and realize we can beat these guys,” Harris said. “We can play with the top teams in the league and we proved that when we beat East Valley for a playoff win.

“Selah and Ellensburg will still be the top dogs. I think Othello and us are up-and-coming teams, so I think the league top-to-bottom is getting better, especially the programs that have been toward the bottom in years past.”

The Jacks open the 2018 season Saturday at the Chelan jamboree. They host Cheney on March 13 and find out just how far they’ve come with a match-up on the road at Ellensburg on March 17.

Rodney Harwood is a sports writer for the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at rharwood@columbiabasinherald.com

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