By David Pan Weekly Herald sports editor
The 2012 Edmonds-Woodway baseball team has a hard act to follow.
Led by New York Yankees draft pick Austin Jones and Gonzaga University recruit Derek Callahan, the Warriors advanced to the Class 4A state quarterfinals before losing to eventual champion Bothell last season.
The graduation of Jones and Callahan leaves a significant void in the lineup, but with seven returning starters, the Warriors’ prospects for the upcoming season appear promising.
“This is the most experienced and battled-tested club I’ve had,” fourth-year head coach Dan Somoza said.
Losing great players, such as Jones and Callahan, simply is a part of high school baseball, Somoza added.
“All I asked is that the returning players get 10 to 15 percent better,” he said. “I’m really excited about this team we have.”
Edmonds-Woodway’s pitching staff is stacked with talent. The Warriors return three strong starters in senior Ryan Budnick, senior Patrick Bernard and junior Bryce Mezich. The right-handed Budnick is expected to fill the staff’s No. 1 slot, succeeding Callahan.
“He locates his fastball well. He has a good curveball and changeup,” Somoza said of Budnick. “He competes.”
Budnick, who’ll play first base when he’s not pitching, will hit fourth in the lineup.
Bernard and Mezich saw action in 2011 and pitched well. Coupled with their select summer ball season, Somoza has high expectations for the two.
“They got some innings last year. They did just fine,” he said. “They’re one year older and more mature.”
Somoza noted that most successful high school teams have at least two quality pitchers.
Edmonds-Woodway’s defense also should be strong with Budnick (first base), senior Ben Roquet (shortstop), junior Alex Hull (second base) and Bernard (third base). Returning at catcher is sophomore Tate Budnick, Ryan’s younger brother.
“They had an outstanding year last year,” Somoza said. “The infield will be a strong point as it was last year.”
Somoza hopes the Warriors will be able to build upon last year’s state quarterfinal appearance.
“I just think that success starts running through the program,” he said. “You know what it takes to get there and how much fun it is. Hopefully, it rubbed off on the younger players in the program.
“Each year is different. This team has a lot of potential. They are hungry and they have a lot of experience.”