By David Krueger Herald Writer
The Archbishop Murphy baseball team finds itself heading to the 2A state semifinals for the second straight year. Last season the Wildcats won a 2A state championship and have picked up right where they left off this year with a 23-2 record and a date with Tumwater in the state semifinals Friday afternoon. A big part of Archbishop Murphy’s sustained success has been the pitching duo of seniors Zander Clouse and Derrick Mahlum. Mahlum has gone 17-0 the past two seasons, including an 11-0 record this year, and Clouse is 8-2 this season and earned the win for the Wildcats in the state regional championship on Sunday. “They have been very consistent throwing strikes, and getting out of trouble has been the key thing for them,” said Archbishop Murphy head coach Stan Taloff. “The tougher the situation has been, the tougher they have got. They’ve stranded runners in key situations. They’re real competitors on the mound. They understand what it is that we’re after.”
Q: You guys enjoying your senior season? Having a lot of fun on the diamond this year?
Derrick Mahlum: Yeah. It’s been really good. It’s been successful. We’re just trying to repeat what we did last year.
Zander Clouse: Definitely. It’s an awesome experience to play with all of these guys. It’s definitely a big family here. Everyone likes each other, we’ve got pretty good chemistry. To spend another week with these guys is a pretty good experience.
Q: You guys were 2A state champions last year, what was it like winning the title last season?
ZC: It’s an unbelievable experience. I think every high school athlete, that’s their goal going into a season. So to get one is incredible. To have a chance to get another one, really it is unbelievable.
DM: It’s one of the most challenging things to do, because everyone’s going after it. It’s just amazing that we did it last year and that we have another chance to do it this year.
Q: Last year you guys beat Lynden twice, including in that championship game. And you guys beat them again Sunday in a state quarterfinal contest. Are you guys sick of each other yet?
DM: Not really. I love to compete. Last year I threw against them twice. It was fun competing with them, because they match up pretty well with us. It’s just nice to go out there and beat them again, especially in a game where if we lose we’re done.
ZC: It’s a great rivalry between us and them, in football and baseball. I think it’s kind of cool to have the upper hand in baseball, I guess. It’s just good baseball when we match up. It’s really fun to play in those games. The crowd’s loud. Lynden normally packs the stands, so to get the upper hand on them twice is a great feeling.
Q: What’s the secret to your guys’ individual success as pitchers?
DM: My plan, for myself, is just to go out there and throw strikes. I try to limit myself to no walks, keep the ball down and throw what they’re not expecting. I like to throw off-speed.
ZC: I think contributing to both of our success is just our team. We’ve done really an amazing job in the outfield and infield. And having Alex Galgano as our catcher — he’s done an incredible job blocking everything and throwing guys out. I think you could say Derrick and I are really good pitchers but our team is the driving force behind it.
Q: How do you calm yourself down when you’re on the mound and find yourself in a little bit of trouble?
ZC: I think you just have to trust your pitches, and trust your team. They’re going to make the plays that need to be made. Just having total confidence in yourself and your team. Derrick had a similar situation in the first game (on Sunday) with guys on second and third and then he had two strikeouts and I had two strikeouts. It’s definitely nerve-wracking, a little bit, but it’s just having confidence.
DM: If there’s a big situation where you can hear all the fans cheering because they have a chance to score, I get excited because it’s just me facing them. I don’t want to be passive-aggressive so I just go out there and challenge them. See what they can do.
Q: What’s it going to take for you guys to repeat as state champions this year?
DM: Play like we’ve been doing the last couple weeks. Play good defense, try and get no errors, throw strikes, hit the ball well and try not to hit too many flyouts. Just play baseball.
ZC: Yeah, just stay with the game we’ve been playing. It’s definitely the hardest thing to do in high school, win a state championship, so to have a chance to do it twice is incredible. But we’ve just got to take it one game at a time, one pitch at a time.
Q: You guys are really, really tall. Who’s the shortest guy on the team?
ZC: Sean Clancy. He’s our sophomore second baseman. But his brother played here and he’s like 6-2, 6-3, so I think he’s still got a few more inches in him.
Q: Are you guys excited to graduate?
DM: Oh yeah. I’m really excited. But I just want to play baseball. I’d rather do that than graduate.
ZC: I don’t think it’s really hit any of these seniors yet. Everybody’s goal is to win another state championship, so we’re just all focused on baseball.
Q: What’s next for you guys after high school?
ZC: I’m playing at Bellevue College for Coach (Mark) Yoshino. I’ll be pitching there. I’m real excited for that. It’s a great opportunity for me, trying to just get to the next level.
DM: For the summer both of us are playing for the (U-18) Washington Rush. And then next year I’ll be playing at PLU (Pacific Lutheran University) for Geoff Loomis.
Q: But first you have to win that state championship first right?
ZC: Oh yeah. That’s our next goal. That’s the big goal.
DM: We have to win the first game, though too.