Boys’ seasons come down to experience
March 12, 2013
The Issaquah High School Eagles’ 2012 season saw a young squad win five in a row at the end to qualify for state.
Now, that squad is a year older and preparing for what coach Rob Reese said could be its breakout year.
“It’s a pretty good mix,” he said. “It’s a really, really good junior class and a group we’ve been counting on to have good things from.”
Ten players are coming back this season.
This year’s group is quieter than last year’s rowdier seniors, Reese said.
Pitcher Justin Vernia said the team’s businesslike vibe is a big difference from last year.
“Last year, a lot of guys liked to play, but they wouldn’t take it as serious as we would like to,” Vernia said. “This year, it’s serious out here.”
Blake Jones, the team’s shortstop said this year’s team has better leadership than last year’s squad.
“Just trying to keep the team together,” he said of his own leadership role, “leading by example.”
A state berth would not determine whether the season was good, Jones said.
“For us, playing with heart and determination,” he said, “not necessarily winning state. That’s a big thing, the trophy on the wall, the legacy and that type of thing, but bringing the team together is kind of big for us.”
“Winning state. Nothing less than that,” he said.
Reese relishes the chance to lead this group to the promised land.
“Every year is fun,” the three-time state champion said. “Every year, you get a new set of guys that you want to hopefully take to the state championship. That’s the goal.”
Last year’s stat leaders are gone, Reese said, and the guys used to hitting in the bottom of the order now are slotted in the “big boys’ spots,” as he called them.
“It happens every year,” Reese added.
If the team stays focused, it could make some noise. But this is KingCo, Reese added, one of the toughest conferences around.
It doesn’t matter to Vernia, who has not one team singled out as the one to beat.
“I would say everybody’s circled in red,” he said. “I want to beat the (crap) out of all the teams.”
The 2013 Liberty High School baseball team may not have the firepower to consistently knock the ball out of the yard, but one thing that coach John Martin can guarantee is that the squad will keep its opponents on their toes all season.
“We’re scrappy,” he said. “We’re going to try and put pressure on you as a defense. We’re going to put the ball in motion. We’re going to put runners in motion and we’re going to take some risks.”
Martin is embarking on his second year as the Patriots’ head coach after a 2012 season in which the team started out slow, but surged in the second half, before falling just shy of a district tournament berth.
This year, the team has a better feel for how the coach expects things done, which can only pay dividends as the year progresses, Martin said.
“I had to implement how I like to do things last year,” he said. “This year, the returners that are now my senior leaders, they all understand and have bought into the program.”
Liberty has most of its infield returning, led by senior shortstop Garrett Hughes and all-league catcher Luke Oman. Senior Jalen Mano, who garnered second-team all-league honors last year, returns to play center field.
The one place where the Patriots may struggle is on the mound, where Martin expects the team to use a “pitching-by-committee” approach.
“We’re going to be acceptable to good in every aspect except for pitching, which of course is huge,” he said. “So, we’re going to have to develop some pitchers.”
Liberty will be tested all year, as the Patriots traverse through the tough KingCo 3A/2A league, Martin said.
“I’m not looking at anybody being easy this year,” he said. “We’re just going to go out and play one game at a time and see how we do.”
After 13 seniors graduated from the varsity roster last year, the Skyline High School baseball team is back for the 2013 season with only two returning starters.
“I am excited to see how this group figures it out as the year goes along,” said Chris Tamminen, head coach of the Skyline Spartans. “We definitely have a learning curve that we are going to have to overcome, sooner than later.”
The two returning starters are senior shortstop Matt Sinatro and junior second basemen Diego Graterol. Sinatro finished the season last year with a .916 fielding percentage and a .348 batting average while Graterol also managed a strong fielding percentage at .906.
With 16 total players on the varsity roster, there are several in the running for the Spartans’ starting pitching spot, including Corbin Powers, Drew Lunde, Arthur Stromquist, Jacob Gleichman and Nate Gibson.
“All those guys have, in some capacity, helped us out on the mound, whether it was starting or relief,” Tamminen said. “We’ve got some talented seniors, we’ve got some talented juniors and we’ll just see how they do.”
This year, Tamminen said he would pick Eastlake to win the division.
“They deserve it,” he said. “They have a good senior class this year.”
Other games he is looking forward to, the coach said, are the March 25 game at Issaquah and the March 27 game against Newport.
Before the regular season starts, Skyline is scheduled to play two nonconference games this week at home. The Spartans host Auburn Riverside at 3:45 p.m. March 13 and take on O’Dea at 3 p.m. March 16.