By David Krueger and Aaron Lommers, Herald Writers
Will the Jackson giant awaken to win districts?
The Jackson baseball team finished this regular season 11-7, good enough for a fourth-place finish in the Wesco 4A South. It’s an almost identical record to last year, when the Timberwolves went 11-8 before going on a run in the district tournament and making it to the first round of the state playoffs.
Might the Timberwolves have another deep run in them?
“I think it has to do with our kids. I think our kids prepare themselves for this time of year,” Jackson head coach Kirk Nicholson said. “It’s the biggest time of year for them. They know going into the season you kind of make your bones for the playoffs. I usually have pretty good players and they do a pretty good job of getting ready for this time.”
Nicholson said he “had quite a few” players graduate from last year’s team, but still has several players who know how to get things done come playoff time.
“I have some guys like Joakim Soderqvist and Conor Plaisance where this is their fourth season playing in the playoffs,” Nicholson said. “They’ve played in state-title games. They know what it’s about.”
Who can beat Shorewood?
One answer could be Meadowdale, the only team to beat Shorewood, the favorite entering the 3A District 1 tournament, this season. The Thunderbirds won their first 16 games of the season before falling in back-to-back games to the Mavericks.
The Mavericks, however, didn’t do themselves any favors, losing nine of their final 11 games to finish with the fourth seed from the 3A Wesco South. The Mavericks only wins in that stretch of games were the team’s two victories over the Thunderbirds. Meadowdale has to face a tough Marysville Pilchuck team in the first round of the tournament and likely needs to string together wins over the Tomahawks and Glacier Peak just to get a chance to see Shorewood in the championship.
The Tomahawks also enter the tournament as one of the favorites, finishing the regular season with a 14-3 record in league and 16-4 overall. But Shorewood’s Riley O’Brien and Ian Oxnevad combined to throw a no-hitter against MP earlier this week.
Glacier Peak, which has just four league losses all season, could challenge for a district title — but three of those came to the Thunderbirds. The Grizzlies are yet to beat the Thunderbirds this season, but certainly have the talent to do it on any given night.
With the pitching staff the Thunderbirds have and a lineup that has shown to be patient throughout the season, it would be an upset if anyone were to keep Shorewood from the district crown.
“If we can keep throwing strikes and keep our mistakes to a minimum, we will be there in the end,” Shorewood head coach Wyatt Tonkin said.
Are Murphy and Lynden on a collision course?
The Archbishop Murphy baseball team has led the Cascade Conference all season. In the 2A District 1/2 tournament, the defending state champion could meet an opponent that has accomplished a similar feat in the Northwest Conference: the Lynden Lions.
Both Lynden and Archbishop Murphy have won 18 games and regular-season league titles this spring, and now find themselves vying for a district championship and a berth in the 2A state playoffs.
“They’re all good quality teams up north, including Bellingham, the team that we’re playing. I think Lynden might have the upper hand with the strength of their athletes,” Wildcats’ head coach Stan Taloff said. “(Lynden is) like us. They return a lot of the players that we saw last year.”
Before Lynden, Archbishop Murphy needs to get past Bellingham and Lake Washington, in a loaded district tournament. In six of the past seven years, the eventual state champion has come from this district tournament.
Who is the favorite to win the 4A district title?
Perhaps they don’t want to jinx anyone, or perhaps they don’t want to provide any bulletin-board material, but coaches were not eager to predict a favorite in this year’s 4A district tournament.
“Honestly, any team could win it,” said Cascade head coach Scott Stencil. “I don’t know the (Wesco) North that well but I know the South and I think any one of them could win on any given day.”
Jackson coach Kirk Nicholson agreed.
“Everybody. And I’m not being facetious on that. There’s not a team there that can’t win two games and go to state,” Nicholson said. “Every team that we played in that tournament can win two games and go to state. This is the most balanced I’ve seen our league in a long time.”
Nicholson and Stencil said it’s likely going to come down to one key play or at-bat, that could decide who wins the game and, ultimately, the district title.
“It’s going to be who gets a bounce or a call, that’s going to win it,” Nicholson said.