Whether Owen Bishop is taking batting practice before the sun comes up or fielding balls with his dad in the evening under the lights at a ball field neighboring the Arlington Boys and Girls Club, the Arlington Eagles’ flame-throwing, baseball-mashing junior is always working.
“It’s been building,” said Arlington coach Scott Striegel of Bishop’s tremendous junior season. “As a freshman, we could see we had a special kid that was coming into the program. We were able to work him that year and get him more opportunity and kind of soften the landing, so he could work his way up.”
Bishop made clear he was one of many Eagles who have put in tremendous work crafting their games over the past few years — a hardhat mentality likely resulting in Arlington’s perfect 18-0 Wesco 3A record. For Bishop especially, his hard work was compensated this season.
Bishop dominated from the mound as one piece of an exceptional pitching trio. He went 8-0 with an astonishing 0.68 ERA in 51 2/3 innings pitched. He held opponents to a .136 batting average and totaled 85 strikeouts.
At the plate, Bishop was equally effective. He finished second on the Eagles with a .429 batting average and .517 on-base percentage. Defensively, when Bishop wasn’t on the mound, he was roaming center field, giving the Eagles great defense up the middle. Bishop even swiped a team-high 12 bases.
For an outstanding season, Bishop is The Herald’s 2019 Baseball Player of the Year.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Bishop of his 2019 season. “Best baseball team I’ve played on talent-wise, and the closest I’ve been with players. Most of the guys, I’ve been playing with since I was 10 years old.”
Although Arlington’s season ended in the state regionals, a 7-6 loss to state runner-up O’Dea, the Eagles were widely regarded as one of Snohomish County’s most talented baseball teams in recent memory. Bishop said the team’s season wasn’t unexpected, and similarly, Bishop’s success his junior year wasn’t much of a surprise either.
The Eagles were relying on Bishop after a strong sophomore season. Perhaps, the biggest jump in Bishop’s game came at the plate, where he increased his average by around 100 points.
“He hits third or fourth in the lineup and can hit the ball out of the ballpark and drive the ball into the gap,” Striegel said. “He’s also a kid who can hit the ball deep in the hole and beat the ball out in the infield. He isn’t a kid who is just swinging at the first pitch. He works the count, works walks and drives the ball into the gap.”
Bishop, who said there is no better feeling than barreling up a baseball, worked extensively on his hitting and strength during the offseason.
“We had high expectations coming into the year, and I think on the mound he was everything we hoped for, if not more,” Striegel said. “And at the plate, it was the same, if not exceeding our expectations.”
Not many Wesco hitters could catch up with the velocity Bishop delivered on the mound. He consistently pumped high-80s fastballs past batters. And just when someone got his timing down, he’d unleash a nasty upper-70s curveball that buckled knees and left hitters looking silly.
Out of Bishop’s 10 starts, eight times he struck out eight or more hitters. He said teammate Cameron Smith and himself would often make friendly bets on who could strike out more hitters in a game.
“I could throw my fastball by people and make it a lot easier,” Bishop said. “I didn’t feel like I was perfect all the time, but then I could use my curveball to get their timing off. That really helped me.”
Perhaps Bishop’s biggest spot of the season came during Arlington’s winner-to-state, loser-out district tournament game against Meadowdale. After just having their 19-game win streak snapped in an upset, the Eagles needed to bounce back to save their season. Bishop got the start and led Arlington to a win, throwing 6 1/3 innings of one-hit ball with 12 strikeouts.
Bishop will have one more year next season to leave his mark on the Eagles’ program, but the Wesco 3A North MVP has drawn some interest from Division-I college baseball programs. He’s received an offer from South Dakota State and has had conversations with UC San Diego, Seattle University, Gonzaga and Yale.