The Tomahawks, one of the strongest teams in the area the past couple seasons, have been unable to move on from districts each of the past two years. This season, Marysville Pilchuck is hoping to exercise those demons, and get through the district tournament.
“None of us would settle for anything less than a state championship,” said Tomahawks pitcher Cody Anderson. “We had an early exit last year that left a bitter taste in our mouth. Every person on our team expects nothing less than a state championship. We know we can do it.”
Once again Marysville Pilchuck is posting a strong showing in the regular season, with a 13-2 record in the Wesco 3A North and a 15-3 mark overall. After a season-opening, 2-1 extra-innings loss to Lake Stevens — the Tomahawks former league rival in the 4A North — Marysville Pilchuck won 14 straight games, with the Tomahawks getting as high as No. 4 in the WashingtonBaseballPoll.com rankings.
“I think it helped us, honestly,” said senior Jake Luton of the loss to the Vikings. “We're not a cocky team by any means at all, but I think it really helped us see that we're not going to roll through the season easily and beat up on everybody. We've got to play each game hard.”
Said Anderson: “It was a really close game. We felt like we should have won it. But the way we looked at it, it's better to lose our first game than our last game. The thing we looked at is we didn't roll over.”
The Tomahawks again have a chance to show their resiliency after dropping a three-game series to Stanwood last week. Marysville Pilchuck needs to win one of its final two games against 3A South teams Glacier Peak and Shorewood to clinch the 3A North title.
“The only losses we've had have been by one run,” Anderson said. “We have this refuse to lose mentality and that came up after the Lake Stevens game. We're going to do whatever we can to win ball games.”
Marysville Pilchuck has been aided by its strong pitching, including Anderson, who is 5-0 on the season, and fellow senior Alex Gray. That, along with a fun atmosphere, has been instrumental in the Tomahawks' run.
“We just have really good team chemistry. It's crazy how close our team is,” Luton said. “We've had some juniors step up in key spots and we've gotten key pitching from Cody Anderson and Alex Gray, who have just been lights out.”
Anderson has been the Tomahawks' ace this year. He struck out 17 in a no-hitter against Stanwood on April 29, Marysville Pilchuck's lone victory in the series.
“He's really good,” said Marysville Pilchuck head coach Kurt Koshelnik. “I don't want to jinx the kid but every time he goes out there he's lights out. … He gives us confidence. We know we're in good hands with him. The kids feed off that. He usually just takes the ball and commands the game.”
Anderson and the rest of the Tomahawks' staff have made an impression around the league.
“They've got some big, tall rangy pitchers there that are pretty good,” said Shorewood head coach Wyatt Tonkin. “… (They have) very good pitching. They're a very, very, very, very good team.”
Tonkin and the Thunderbirds will get to see at least one pitcher up close today when Shorewood hosts Marysville Pilchuck at 7 p.m. at Meridian Park in Shoreline. Shorewood (13-2 league, 16-2), which boasts a star pitcher of its own in Washington State-commit Sam Boone, is the one local 3A team with a better record than the Tomahawks.
The Thunderbirds, ranked No. 6 in the latest state rankings, are also responsible for Marysville Pilchuck's most recent exit from the district tournament. Shorewood ended the Tomahawks' season last year with a 4-2 victory in a loser-out game.
“Shorewood knocked us out last year and none of us were happy about that,” Anderson said. “We've been gunning for them. We want Shorewood. We had a full year to let Shorewood's victory soak in. They're a good ball club this year. They're a lot like us. They have really strong pitching and defense. It's going to be a really good showdown. But there's just something different in our dugout that is coming together. I'm confident we're going to put up a good battle. It's going to be a really tough, good, close game.”
Koshelnik thinks the tough final week of the season will help prepare the Tomahawks for the grind of the upcoming district tournament.
“In the past, sometimes we've ended with a schedule that hasn't been as formidable,” Koshelnik said. “I don't think that's done us any favors. I think that's a really good way to end the season, going into the playoffs. Good baseball is good baseball. I think it sets up you to play better in the long run.”
And the Tomahawks hope it's a very long run.
“Win a state championship. That's the goal,” Luton said. “That's the only thing that can make it a real success. … First thing's first, you've got to get through districts. You've got to win every game. You've got to win the game you're playing today. But I think we all have it in our sights and we know what we want: to make it deep in the playoffs and compete like we should.”
David Krueger reports on prep sports for The Herald. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter @krueger_david.
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