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8/28/2014 12:36:00 PM
Current, former Kodiaks participate in Babe Ruth World Series
File photo
Former Cascade star, Jesse Ward, recently completed play with the Columbia Basin River Dogs, which competed in the Babe Ruth World Series in Ephrata.

File photo
Former Cascade star, Jesse Ward, recently completed play with the Columbia Basin River Dogs, which competed in the Babe Ruth World Series in Ephrata.

It says something about the plight of the Cascade High School baseball program when three Kodiaks participate in the Babe Ruth World Series.

Former Kodiaks Tristin Parton and Jesse Ward played for the Columbia Basin River Dogs, a team with a certain amount of baseball notoriety, while CHS senior Austin Murdock played for the Columbia Basin Desert Dogs, for players 17 and under.

Cascade Head Coach Mike Kelly said he cannot remember a time when three Kodiaks were playing for the River Dogs and Desert Dogs. When Ben Smithson played for the Riverdogs, Kelly said that helped pave the way for other Kodiak players.

"It was good for that program to get a chance to know our kids. That kind of opened the door. This year, we changed up our mentality with our summer program," Kelly said. "For the last two, we wanted to keep everybody close, so we can get better as a unit. This year, Austin was interested in playing, so I thought it was a great time."

One of the consistent remarks Kelly heard was the Cascade players understood how the game should be played.

"Situationally and whatnot, we are advanced and that is great. That has mostly to do with them," Kelly said. "They are baseball kids and love the game. It is recognition that our kids can compete with those upper end programs."

Former Kodiak standout Tristin Parton played outfield and pitcher for the River Dogs. He said it was a good experience.

"Better competition than 1A baseball. It was a challenge at first, but got better toward the end of the season. It was a good experience because I want to play college baseball next year," Parton said.

A clean up hitter in high school, Parton batted lead off for the River Dogs. His approach had to change a lot, he said. The pitching at that level was much better too, Parton said.

"You're seeing high 80s every game compared to mid low 70s in high school," Parton said. "I didn't expect to pitch much. But they wanted me to pitch because I was a lefty. I wasn't throwing as fast as the other kids."

The Babe Ruth World Series in Ephrata was an awesome experience, Parton said. His team made it as far as the quarterfinals.

"It was an awesome experience. I've never been part of anything like that. I was nervous," Parton said. "My whole family came down, so it was pretty cool."

Parton is planning to play baseball for Big Bend Community College next season.

Murdock played third base for the Desert Dogs. He said it was a lot of fun.

"The Desert Dogs actually earned our way into the World Series. The best part was winning state to go to the World Series," Murdock said. "Go up and compete and be the underdogs. It was fun because we competed and did well, even though we were younger than most."

A shaky defender at third in high school, Murdock seems to have turned the corner, as he was named to the all tournament defensive team.

"It was really cool to see that high level competition. It was not too much more than we had been seeing all summer. It was nice to compete against the best," Murdock said. "Seeing all the different coaching styles and philosophies. They had a beautiful field in Ephrata. Community worked hard to put it all together."

Murdock was impressed by the California team that knocked them out of the World Series. He said they had an advantage, playing all year long.

"The play together, practice together. It's almost like a school sport for them," Murdock said. "The River Dogs is basically just a summer league, but they are trying to expand that into winter and fall."

Murdock is hoping to earn a baseball scholarship, so this is why he wanted to venture out and get more looks and reps.

Fomer Kodiak shortstop Jesse Ward said he very much enjoyed his experience playing for the River Dogs, especially at the Babe Ruth World Series.

"The level of competition quickly becomes more tough when you start to see teams from all over the USA, instead of just from around Washington, so you can easily grade yourself on how well you are doing," Ward said. "It was an unforgettable experience and I hope to one day be apart of something like that again, either as a player or possibly a coach."

Next season, Ward plans to join Parton on the baseball team at Big Bend Community College.

"Playing baseball in any form beyond high school has alway been part of my plan, so it was an easy choice to commit to Big Bend when that opportunity arose," Ward said.

Kelly said it was great to see his players compete and represent Kodiak baseball. He enjoyed sitting back and watching, rather than coaching.

Ian Dunn can be reached at 548-5286 or editor@leavenworthecho.com.





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