Favorite: Lake Stevens
The Vikings are loaded with talent and it’s no surprise that most of the coaches thought they were the team to beat in the North in 2012. Shortstop and pitcher Dylan Lavelle, one of the top players in the state, leads the way for Lake Stevens, but he has plenty of help. Jake Nelson, Christian Gasca and Anthony Blackie. just to name a few, should help the Vikings make a run at a Wesco North title and the 4A state tournament. Vikings head coach Rodger Anderson said this group plays well together and they should be helped by a healthy Lavelle, who battled an injury much of last season.
Dark Horses: Marysville Pilchuck and Snohomish.
Marysville Pilchuck coach Kurt Koshelnik said pitching will be a key to the Tomahawks’ season. MP returns two seniors who pitched at the varsity level last season in Jake Johnson and Brandon Moser. Koshelnik said his team has some first-year players who will rise to the challenge. Much of the Tomahawks’ starting infield also returns this season, giving MP a fighting chance in the competitive North. Snohomish should figure into the mix despite losing 12 seniors off last year’s team. Coach Kim Hammons said his young players will have to learn as the season goes along, but they should be helped by the pitching of senior right-hander Doug Gove and junior right-hander Russell Crippen.
Player to watch: Anthony Blackie | Lake Stevens
Blackie, a senior, returns after being named first-team All-Wesco as a pitcher in both his sophomore and junior seasons. He averaged 2.1 strikeouts per inning as a pitcher last season and hit .395 with 21 RBI. Lake Stevens head coach Rodger Anderson said Blackie has a hard-nose approach to the game and is fearless at the plate. “I don’t think he gets enough credit for how good of a hitter he is,” Anderson said.
The Timberwolves can only do one thing to improve on the season they had a year ago and that’s win the state championship. Jackson fell 3-2 in the 2011 Class 4A state title game to Bothell. It won’t be easy for the Timberwolves. Jackson lost its fair share of players from that team, including pitcher Jason Todd, who chose not to play this season to focus on basketball. One game-changing player they didn’t lose was All-Area and All-State player Sam Brown. Brown, a pitcher and outfielder, is headed to the University of Arizona on a baseball scholarship, but the Timberwolves have one more season to utilize his talents. Jackson’s pitching depth makes it the favorite in the Wesco South once again.
Dark Horse: Edmonds-Woodway
Ryan Budnick, the Warrriors’ No. 1 pitcher and No. 4 hitter, will lead the way, but he will get a little help. All-Wesco middle infielders Ben Roquet and Alex Hull both return, as does Patrick Bernard, who plays third base and pitches for E-W. Head coach Dan Somoza said his pitchers have to throw strikes and be competitive every day in order to give the Warriors a chance to win. Offensively, Somoza said the Warriors have depth throughout the lineup and if one person has an off day, the other players will pick him up.
Player to watch: Ryan Budnick | Edmonds-Woodway
Warriors head coach Dan Somoza said Budnick does it all for his team. He E-W’s No. 1 pitcher and will hit in the four slot for the Warriors. Last season, Budnick finished with a 6-3 record and struck out 38 batters in 46 innings. At the plate, Budnick hit .352 with 26 RBI. Somoza called Budnick a leader and said he works hard and comes through in the biggest situations. Edmonds-Woodway will need his leadership in 2012 if the Warriors are to challenge Jackson for the conference crown.
Favorites: Shorewood and Mountlake Terrace.
Shorewood lost a heartbreaker to Mount Si last May in the Class 3A state championship game. Though they are expected to be one of the top teams in Wesco 3A again this season, the Thunderbirds lost plenty of talent. Gone are the likes of major-league draft picks Blake Snell and Trevor Mitsui, and Kevin Moriarty, who is pitching at Gonzaga. Said Shorewood coach Wyatt Tonkin: “I don’t think I will ever get three players of that impact again at the same time.” But the Thunderbirds do still have a cast of experienced veterans,led by pitcher Henry McAree.
Mountlake Terrace also should also be in the running for the league championship, with 11 returning seniors led by Alex Hatch. The Hawks also return their entire starting infield. Coach Andrew Watters said that in order to be successful, the team needs to be a better defensive team, something it has been working on in the practices leading up to the first game.
Dark Horses: Glacier Peak and Meadowdale.
Meadowdale coach Bill Hummell describes his team as a veteran and athletic bunch. Hummel said the Mavericks return either a starter or someone with a lot of experience at seven of the eight defensive positions (not including pitcher). The team also boasts a strong pitching staff behind seniors Torin Dooley and Sam Herzer. Bill Sullivan also will see significant innings in his first season with the Mavericks after transferring from Toms River, New Jersey. The Mavericks have been in the district championship game the past five seasons and Hummel said he hopes his team can get back there again. Glacier Peak coach Bob Blair calls his team small and scrappy and said the Grizzlies will rely on pitching and defense to be successful. The Grizzlies lack a solid power bat, but will use speed and quickness on the base paths by putting the ball in play.
Player to watch: Alex Hatch | Mountlake Terrace
One Wesco 3A coach said Alex Hatch can beat you by himself. Hatch is the No. 1 pitcher and first baseman for the Hawks. On the mound, Hatch doesn’t surrender many hits and Hawks head coach Andrew Watters said Hatch pitches efficiently. “As a pitcher, he is really tough to hit. He is left-handed and he has great stuff. When he is ahead in the count he is really tough to hit,” Watters said. But Hatch does more than just pitch. He hits in the middle of the Hawks lineup and Watters said “he’s as good of a hitter as anyone we’ve had at Terrace.”
Favorite: Archbishop Murphy
All five of Archbishop Murphy’s All-Conference players from a year ago return this season, which head coach Stan Taloff said should help the Wildcats make a run at a fourth straight Cascade Conference title. The pitching staff is anchored by Levi Mavorhis, the runner-up for league MVP a year ago.
Dark Horses: Cedarcrest and Lakewood
Cedarcrest should be a factor in the Cascade Conference this season. The Red Wolves return several key players, including two All-League pitchers from last season, seniors Nick Gagner and Tyler Reeves. Shortstop Tanner Marty also returns to a team that hopes make a run at the league championship. A challenge for Cedarcrest will be trying to replace Paul Wilen, the Cascade Conference MVP from a year ago, but head coach Scott Goldsberry said that the team has a lot of depth and expects many different players to step up throughout the season.
Lakewood has been just short of advancing to the 2A state tournament the past two seasons. Head coach Larry Delaney said solid defense and aggressive base-running will keys to the Cougars’ success this season. Lakewood’s pitching depth should have them competing for a spot in state once again. Junior pitcher and third baseman Andrew Bean, senior shortstop Alex Keen and junior center fielder Brandon Stott should all play key roles for the Cougars.
Player to watch: Levi Mavorhis | Archbishop Murphy
Mavorhis, a senior pitcher, was the runner-up to Cascade Conference MVP Paul Wilen a year ago, boasting an undefeated league record, striking out 62 batters and posting a 0.88 earned-run average. Archbishop Murphy coach Stan Taloff said Mavorhis genuinely loves the game of baseball and is committed to excellence in all he does. He has committed to Bellevue College but continues to weigh his options at four-year schools.