|It’s KingCo baseball time, once again|
|Written by Don Mann|
|Tuesday, 13 March 2012 09:48|
Last time we talked baseball, the Bothell Cougars were bringing home a 2011 Class 4A state championship trophy on the heels of a stunning 3-2 come-from-behind victory over Jackson of Mill Creek, its neighbors to the north, to crown a 23-4 season. A lot of things went right for Bothell during its remarkable run, but they earned it with great pitching, relentless defense and big hits when it counted.
Luck, as Branch Rickey said, is the residue of design
The Cougs, enjoying one of those fortuitous high school cycles, got to trot out 12 capable seniors every day, kids who had played together since Slurpees, sleeping bags and baseball cards.
Ask any high school coach in any sport: seniors make a big difference.
Capitalizing on rare sun breaks last week, this reporter spent some time with all three Northshore squads and coaches as the new season is upon us.
Bothell: First question to 14-year head coach Paul Moody (29th in KingCo overall) was what do you do for an encore? The Bothell health teacher laughed out loud, anticipating that query down the middle.
“Last year was such a special year and we had a wonderful run at it,” he said. “People talk about defending your title but in high school sports there’s a constant turnover.”
Moody and staff thoroughly enjoyed last year but the emphasis this year, he said, was in rebuilding. From the ground up.
It starts on the mound with seniors Rex Carlin, Brady Mickelson and Brett Steiner, who will attempt to throw strikes to junior catcher Sammy Lee, the only true starter from the title team. Lee, as a sophomore, hit .326 with some pop.
Bothell will produce an entirely new infield, with Mark Woods — who contributed in the outfield last year in state games — moving to shortstop. It’s not set in stone, but sophomore Kellen Webster may play second, with Zach Anderson at first and Carlin at third when he’s not chucking. Camden McLeod will play third when Carlin toes the rubber.
The outfield will be comprised of seniors Nik Gray, Jake Storer, Steiner, and promising sophomore Daniel Fredrickson.
“We’re inexperienced and we’ll have to battle every inning but we’ll compete hard and continue to grow,” Moody said.
Inglemoor: Coming off a 15-9 year, losing several starters to graduation, the Vikings are in similar straits. Yet 5th-year coach Bryan McNaghten may reap the benefits of playing some young kids early last year, as well as a summer season he felt good about.
“We had some battles and some kids started to figure it out,” he said.
Among them are Blake Wilson, a three-year starter and a good stick, who will play the outfield and probably bat third.
Pitching? Lucas Wimmer is proposed as the No. 1 starter on the bump in a big question mark. Ryan Caylor, Curt Bafus and Willie Augustavo will also be asked to record some outs as the Vikings will use all the tools in their box.
Perry Pipkin and Josh Seefeld will receive their pitches behind the dish. “Nobody’s claimed that catcher spot yet,” McNaghten said.
The infield has the early look of this: Kenny Holen at 2B, Jake Sleder at SS and Brandon Edwards — reportedly the real deal — at 3rd base. Wimmer, Bafus and Augustavo may share time at 1B when they’re not pitching.
The outfield is comprised of Tyler Beahan, Danny Larson and Wilson, with senior Josh Williams in the mix.
“We’re young and inexperienced,” McNaghten said. “We’ve got a lotta kids who just haven’t done it at the varsity level. They haven’t been KingCo tested. I don’t really know about our overall chemistry yet ... Sometimes I think we’re OK but other times they act like teenagers,” he said with a laugh. “If it clicks I think we’ll be OK,” he said, “because we’ve got some very talented kids. It’s just too early to tell.”
Woodinville: Everybody who follows KingCo baseball knows Woodinville (14-7-1 last year) is absolutely loaded this year — including the coaches at Bothell and Inglemoor. Let’s face it: It’s one of those extraordinary senior-cycle years, with 13 upperclassmen and a handful of others who can really play.
Woodinville has 20 varsity-level ballers in the program.
Falcon coach Terry Agnew knows it, too.
“If they’re talking about us it’s because we return a lot of good seniors,” he said. “But we haven’t done anything yet.”
The 21-year coach, who won a state title in 2002, knows he’s loaded on paper. They’ve been pointing to this group since they were in 8th-grade, when they began winning multiple state summer titles at the highest levels ... But “on paper” doesn’t feed the bulldog.
The Falcons have been bounced early in the KingCo tournament — by Inglemoor twice — in the last two years, and have underachieved.
“These guys haven’t been to the state tournament yet and I think they’d be disappointed if that didn’t happen,” Agnew said. “It’s their last chance.”
This year has a chance to be different, and the dugout will be crowded on varsity game night, as Agnew deals the cards from an ample hand.
The starting lineup has a chance to look like this: Marty Luckenbach on the mound, Clark Bader behind the plate.
Matt Laitala at first, Beau Vintertun at second, Shea Donlin at shortstop and Caleb Hamilton at third. Nate Wilham in left, T.C. Florentine in center, Jeff Wyner — back after missing his junior year to a knee injury — in right, and Max Carter at designated hitter.
Then again you could punch in any of the following names: Spencer Greer, Cody Bauman, Myles Franklin, Tommy Wick, Lee Wunderlich, Conner Breuske, Griffin Jones, Steven White and Harrison Van Til.
Consider that Wick, just a sophomore, would likely start on any other KingCo team.
What does Agnew like best about his squad?
“I like their experience and their competitiveness. It’s been a long time since we’ve had so many seniors who can play, though it’s a good problem and a bad problem — bad because it pushes the younger guys down. You want the younger guys to play some and get the experience. Plus you carry 13 seniors and if one of them doesn’t play a lot they’re usually not happy campers.”
Has he addressed that with the team?“Yes, but right now they all think they’re one of the nine starters,” he said with a chuckle.