However, that doesn’t mean their paths to the title contest are devoid of snares and traps.
When asked to pick a dark horse contender, Shorewood head coach Wyatt Tonkin mentioned better than half the teams in the tournament.
“I think Glacier Peak has much better athletes and talent than their record belies. I think Mountlake Terrace can definitely hold their own with anybody,” Tonkin said. “ … Also, Meadowdale is extremely good. And Stanwood in the North — we only played them one game — but I was very impressed with a couple of their pitchers. I see not one, but four or five (darkhorses). It’s pretty much going to be a fight for those three (state) berths.
“It’ll be a fun tournament to watch and I think whichever teams come out of our district to move on, we’re going to be well-represented.”
Marysville Pilchuck head coach Kurt Koshelnik agreed.
“Honestly, with how the playoffs are set up and formatted, it’s a free-for-all,” he said. “Last year, we ended up losing and Shorewood ended up losing and Ferndale snuck in and won the whole thing. It’s a free-for-all. It’s really competitive.”
Stanwood beat Marysville Pilchuck twice this season and also upended Shorewood 5-4 when the two teams met April 23.
“We haven’t seen a pitching staff like that this year,” Koshelnik said of the Spartans. “They’re pretty good.”
Meadowdale was the other team to beat Shorewood this season. Throw in the return of Mountlake Terrace ace Dominic DeMiero, who missed a few games with an injured hand, and there is a strong mix of contenders for the 3A district title.
“There’s no givens here. I’m not taking anybody lightly,” Tonkin said. “I’m certainly not going to save both of my guns and go down without using them. It should be a fun tournament. I see four or five teams that can definitely have a legit shot at it.”
Can Budnick lead E-W to state?
If Edmonds-Woodway is to advance to state it needs senior catcher and pitcher Tate Budnick to keep up his stellar play at the plate and on the mound.
Budnick and the Warriors started the season 2-6 before reeling off 10 straight wins to put themselves in contention for a the Wesco 4A South championship. Budnick batted .529 during the winning streak.
Budnick has been the Warriors’ offensive leader throughout the season, hitting .482 with a .544 on-base percentage and 27 RBI. He is tied for second among players in both Wesco and the Cascade Conference with nine doubles. His three home runs are also tied for second.
On the mound Budnick has been just as sharp. He is 4-1 with a 1.77 earned run average, and opponents are hitting a meager .192 off him in his 31? innings. He also has two complete games and one save.
Who can challenge Lake Stevens?
Once again there are several teams capable of making a run in the 4A district tournament, but based on the past two seasons, Lake Stevens appears to be the frontrunner.
Two years ago, a loaded Vikings squad won the district championship and advanced to the state quarterfinals. Last year, a much younger Vikings squad peaked during the district tournament and surprised some by winning a second straight district crown.
The Vikings are certainly capable of winning a third straight district title, but it’s not going to be easy. Their biggest challenge likely will come from Cascade. The Bruins were one of the favorites a year ago, but had their championship hopes derailed by Monroe in the first round. Seniors Ky Dye and K.J. Brady have the Bruins poised to make a run at the title this year as the No. 1 seed from the Wesco 4A South.
Just as capable of putting together a run are the other competitors from the South. Jackson started the season 11-2 before a five-game losing streak derailed the Timerwolves’ league championship hopes. Edmonds-Woodway started slow before a 10-game win streak earned them the No. 2 seed. Lynnwood grabbed the final seed from the South, but could also be dangerous.
There is far less parody in the North. Lake Stevens led Snohomish for much of the year before the Panthers made a late run to tie the Vikings in first place late in the season. Lake Stevens won the league title — on the final day of the regular season Wednesday. The Panthers and Vikings split their four regular-season meetings, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Snohomish made a run at the district crown.
Can Ferndale win it again?
Last season the Golden Eagles swooped in from the Northwest Conference and won the 3A District title in impressive fashion. Ferndale, which was a pedestrian 13-7 in the regular season last year, went 3-0 in districts and won by a combined score of 10-1, including a 5-0 upset of the favorite, Shorewood, in the semifinals.
The Golden Eagles, who finished 7-5 in conference play and 10-9 overall, could do the same thing this season. The battery that gave teams fits last season — starting pitcher Brady Bauthues and catcher Brady Shearer — are back and have been strong again this spring. Ferndale’s offense is led by senior outfielder Joey Akers and junior third baseman Kyler Brudwick and its defense is anchored by slick-fielding shortstop Pete Pennylegion.
The only Wesco team Ferndale faced this season was Stanwood in the season opener. Spartans starter Tyler Givens pitched his team to a 6-3 win over the Golden Eagles, but, as Wesco teams found out a year ago, anything can happen in the postseason.
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