The Mountlake Terrace baseball players sound a lot like Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.
And it isn’t just because they end every interview with “Go Hawks.”
Talking about living in the moment and improving each week, the Mountlake Terrace Hawks hope to emulate Wilson and the Seahawks success as they begin the 3A state tournament this weekend against Columbia River.
Mountlake Terrace reached the postseason, in part, because of a strong late-season push. After dropping three of their first four games — and weathering a four-game skid in the middle of the season — the Hawks had a late-season surge in which they won seven straight before falling to Glacier Peak in the district championship.
Mountlake Terrace plays Columbia River at Bannerwood Park in Bellevue on Saturday at 10 a.m. To watch the game, visit Sound Live Sports Network.
“It’s not about how you start,” said Mountlake Terrace senior Dominic DeMiero, starting another of Wilson’s classic lines. “It’s how you finish.”
Thanks in part to DeMiero, and the Hawks other ace Daniel Theis, Mountlake Terrace was able to finish the season strong, with wins in 10 of their final 12 games of the regular season. The Hawks look to the duo as they begin the 3A state tournament against Columbia River today at 10 a.m. at Bannerwood Park in Bellevue.
The winner of that contest plays the winner of the 1 p.m. game between North Thurston and O’Dea, 45 minutes after the completion of the North Thurston-O’Dea game.
“They’re huge,” said Mountlake Terrace head coach Andrew Watters of Theis and DeMiero. “Two seniors that had good years last year too. They’re veteran pitchers. It’s been nice to do this their senior year for them, for those two guys to really step up and give us these quality starts here at the end.”
Both pitchers say they love the excitement — and nerves — of being on the mound for a big game. The pair hopes there are many big games to come.
“I love it on the mound. I love the pressure,” Theis said. “It’s fun just being out there and feeling the whole environment. You’re in control of the game and it’s just fun being on the mound. I like it a lot.”
DeMiero, who was on the Hawks team in 2012 that fell to Columbia River 5-4 in the state tournament, said that his experience in high-stakes games — like the district tournament – helps come playoff time.
“It’s my fourth year out here pitching, so it’s definitely different than freshman year. My legs aren’t shaking anymore,” DeMiero said. “I have the experience, which helps a lot. There is a lot of pressure, especially pitching big games. But I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunities to have the experience to get me through that.”
Mountlake Terrace was without DeMiero for close to 10 days near the end of the regular season after he got hit by a pitch on his left (throwing) hand while up to bat. The senior said he has a permanent loss of feeling where the ball hit his hand — toward the bottom of his palm — but he was still eager to get back on the field for Mountlake Terrace.
“It was hard to watch from the dugout,” DeMiero said. “It’s definitely different. I just did everything I could to help out the team. Pump guys up, go out and warm guys up — just whatever I could do to be as involved as I could be.”
Without DeMiero, the Hawks were still able to get a pair of wins against Shorecrest and keep up in the incredibly competitive Wesco 3A South. The Hawks finished in a three-way tie for second place — Meadowdale and Glacier Peak also finished 8-8 — at the end of the regular season in the 3A South, which ended up claiming all three state berths from the district.
“They’re all solid teams and facing them three times a year is just great for playoffs,” said senior catcher Wyatt Allemann. “I don’t really know a whole lot about Columbia River but I know that the Wesco South is definitely a tough, tough division to play in, which is good for us.”
Along with the pitching, the Mountlake Terrace coach credits the Hawks’ defense as being much better at the end of the season. Watters point was emphatically driven home when Mountlake Terrace center fielder Jason Shevenko threw a runner out at the plate from the outfield to record the final out in the Hawks’ 1-0 district semifinal win over Marysville Pilchuck.
“We’re a better team than we were at the beginning. I think defensively we’re much better,” Watters said. “We improved in that area in a big way. … I’m hoping that we get our bats going. Our bats have been a little quiet lately, but as long as we pitch and play defense we’ll stay in any game.”
The victory over the Tomahawks set up a rematch with league rival Glacier Peak in the district championship. Mountlake Terrace took two of three games from the Grizzlies in the regular season, but Glacier Peak came up with a big 12-2 win in the title game to even the season series.
The Hawks have done their best to put that championship game behind them.
“The MP game was great. It was like, ‘Wow, we can do it! We can play with these guys, with these top teams,’” Shevenko said. “The Glacier Peak game, it was a letdown, but that happens. It’s baseball. You win, you fail. After that loss we came back to practice and said, ‘You know what? It happens. We’re going to flush it and we’re going to work hard this week and we’re going to come out to state and win a ballgame.’”
Watters talked about Columbia River with his team at practice this week and informed Mountlake Terrace that it is playing a team very similar to itself.
“They’re a very equal team to us,” Shevenko said. “They’re not overpowering … They have good pitching, just like us. And they play good defense. … If we play our game, do what we can do, play at our level we can do a lot of damage at state. We could be a state championship team if we want to.”
Mountlake Terrace’s four seniors — Allemann, DeMiero, Theis and outfielder Elliot Nebel — are hoping to make their final games for the Hawks memorable ones.
“We try to treat it like another game but I know that it’s the last few high school games here and I’ve got to take advantage of it and just play my heart out,” Allemann said. “… Coach has been talking all season that, especially being my senior year, just take advantage of everything that we have out here. That’s what we did in the district tournament. We just lived in the moment and made the most of it.”
Added DeMiero: “You’ve got one last chance, you might as well leave it all out there.”