There have been some ups and downs for junior K.J. Brady during his three seasons on the Cascade baseball team.
Fortunately for the Bruins, the outfielder/pitcher currently is on an upswing.
After Cascade went 3-17 in his freshman year, the Bruins made the playoffs last season where they went 0-2. Now, Cascade hopes to make another leap forward and do some damage in its second shot at the district tournament.
"I have quite a few juniors, including K.J., that have been with me in some good times and bad," Cascade head coach Scott Stencil said. "Now we're on a good run."
That run helped the Bruins finish the year 14-6 and in second place in the Wesco 4A South. Cascade plays host to Monroe on Saturday in the first round of the district tournament.
Cascade is hoping to build on last season's turnaround and make some noise in this year's incredibly competitive 4A tournament.
"I think it's been a good year for us," Brady said. "We've had a lot of success and we've won a lot of games. Following last year when we went 13-7 (in the regular season), we were just looking to come back strong. This year I think what's really special is that our team just has that special bond as a team, and you just can't beat that. We've had a lot of success on the field and we hope to keep it going at districts."
Brady has been a big part of Cascade's success this year. The Bruins leadoff hitter is batting .380, with a .515 on-base percentage, 26 runs scored, 12 RBI, four doubles, four triples and seven stolen bases.
"He starts us off," Stencil said. "The biggest thing is he gets on base no matter what."
Once Brady's on base, he can usually rely on his teammates to get him across the plate. According to Brady, the Bruins have been able to win close ballgames because someone on the team steps up at the right time.
For a video of Aaron Lommers and David Krueger interviewing Brady and Lande, click here.
"It's people coming up clutch every day. And it's someone new," Brady said. "We get that clutch AB (at-bat) or a good pitching performance. Like last week we were kind of struggling with pitching and (sophomore Matthew) Butler comes out and throws a shutout against Kamiak. Everyone's just playing their part and we're just getting the wins."
Looking ahead, Brady already has made plans for beyond Cascade High School. The junior has verbally committed to play baseball at the University of Washington, picking the Huskies over Gonzaga and Santa Clara.
"I couldn't pass up that offer," said Brady, who frequently attends baseball, football and basketball games at UW.
Brady, who wants to study communications, was signed primarily as an outfielder, but may also be called upon to pitch for the Huskies. He is 3-3 on the mound for Cascade this season and could find himself on the mound for the Bruins in the postseason.
The Bruin co-captain can't wait for that opportunity.
"It's fun. This is why you play. You play for the pressure moments," Brady said. "You come through sometimes, sometimes you don't. Yeah, we're disappointed we lost (the conference title), but we also know that we're already hosting a district game. We're just looking to take it day by day and see how far we can get. We think this year is our year, so we're just seeing if we can make some damage in the playoffs and see how far we can get."
Snohomish SS Haakon Lande has put the entire package together
There are many reasons the Snohomish Panthers are one of the favorites entering the Class 4A District 1 baseball tournament. Near the top of that list is junior shortstop Haakon Lande.
Lande helped the Panthers to a 15-4 regular-season record and the Wesco 4A North championship. They play host to Jackson at 2 p.m. Saturday in the first round of districts.
Snohomish head coach Kim Hammons said he is most impressed with how much Lande has improved since his freshman season.
"He started as a role player on the varsity as a freshman," Hammons said. "He was nervous about being out there, as most freshmen would be, and as the year progressed Haakon became a significant contributor in helping us win a Wesco North title."
Lande's contributions have increased over the past two seasons.
"Last year, as a sophomore, you saw him start to develop as an all-around good player," Hammons said. "A good hitter, hitting with a little bit of power, running the bases and making the plays defensively. This year he has put the entire package together and he has been invaluable sitting in the middle of our lineup."
Lande has worked hard each offseason to improve his skills and become one of the key pieces in the Panthers' offense. His play has earned him a scholarship offer from Washington State University, which he has verbally accepted. He can't officially sign with the Cougars until next fall.
Defensively, Lande always has had the skills, but his improvement at the plate has been startling, especially this season.
"The first few years I was kind of struggling on offense, just kind of getting used to high school baseball," Lande said. "This year, I've just relaxed and am hitting the (pitches) I want to hit."
It has paid off statistically. Going into Tuesday's game against Arlington, Lande was batting .345 (19-for-55). His 19 RBI led the Panthers. He also had two home runs, three doubles, 14 runs scored and was 5-for-5 on stolen base attempts.
One of the biggest challenges to Snohomish in the district tournament is likely to be Cascade, which is led by junior pitcher/outfielder K.J. Brady. Brady has committed to the University of Washington, which could make for some Pac-12 battles in the future between the two standouts.
Aside from the Bruins, the Wesco South champion Edmonds-Woodway Warriors come into the tournament as one of the favorites, but Lande said the Panthers focus right now is on Jackson.
"Over the past few years we have kind of struggled with Jackson," he said. "I'm hoping we get past them."
Hammons has nothing but praise for his shortstop, but said the credit for the Panthers' success goes to everyone.
"It's been a very impressive year and Haakon has been one of the keys, but we do have a lot of good players on this team," Hammons said. "You just don't have a good year without having a combination of good defense, good hitters, good pitching, good catching and that's exactly what's happened.
"We have a full team of very good players."
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on Twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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