Edmonds-Woodway comes together for a mound visit during the Class 3A District 1 baseball championship game against Mountlake Terrace on May 11 at Funko Field in Everett. The Warriors face Mount Vernon in the state semifinals Friday in Pasco. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

Edmonds-Woodway comes together for a mound visit during the Class 3A District 1 baseball championship game against Mountlake Terrace on May 11 at Funko Field in Everett. The Warriors face Mount Vernon in the state semifinals Friday in Pasco. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)

E-W faces tall task in 3A state baseball semifinals

The Warriors will likely have to solve Mount Vernon star Xavier Neyens to advance to the title game.

A tall but familiar order awaits the Edmonds-Woodway High School baseball team for Friday’s Class 3A state playoff semifinal game in Pasco.

The Warriors faced 6-foot-4 Mount Vernon pitcher Xavier Neyens in their season opener back in March. A top Class of 2025 prospect nationally, Neyens got the better of Edmonds-Woodway that day as the Bulldogs prevailed 7-2. They’re hoping for a different result when the teams meet at 4 p.m. Friday for a berth in Saturday’s state championship game.

“He’s one of the best players in the country,” Edmonds-Woodway coach Dan Somoza said. “He throws hard — 90-94 (miles per hour). He can also hit the ball a long way.”

Though he’s pretty sure Neyens can still throw hard, Somoza believes a lot of other things have changed since that March meeting. Since some losses early in the season for both teams, they have combined to win 41 of 45 games. He’s watched his young team, which is 20-5-1 and seeded No. 7, mature and improve in all facets of the game. The Warriors hope to use their pesky lineup to keep Neyens and the Mount Vernon defense busy. Though not known for power, E-W has seven players who get on base more than 40% of the time. They keep defenses on their toes with bunts and timely hitting.

“Quality at bats, grinding up the pitch count, and putting the ball in play,” said senior center fielder Diego Escandon, who has hit nine doubles and Edmonds-Woodway’s lone home run this season.

E-W features some strong seniors to go along with Escandon. Catcher Thomas Shults leads the team with 19 RBI, and Kohl Gruender’s .373 batting average is tops among the Warriors. A strong group of underclassmen has filled in nicely behind them. Ecandon’s brother, sophomore Cruz Escandon, is second on the team in batting average (.366) and RBI (16) while leading the Warriors with 22 stolen bases in 24 attempts. Lukas Wanke, another sophomore, is batting .355 while also being one of the team’s top pitchers.

“I knew that we were going to have some challenges early on,” said Diego Escandon, “but I knew we had the talent to make it this far.”

The Warriors will likely counter Neyens, whose Bulldogs are 23-3 and the No. 3 seed, with a freshman — though he’s not your typical ninth-grader. Grafton Marshall-Inman brings a five-pitch arsenal, including a fastball the often reaches the upper 80s.

Marshall-Inman, who is known as a fiery competitor, said he’s learned a lot since the first game of the year.

“I’ve just got to pitch to contact, and if they get hits, they get hits,” Marshall-Inman said. “I’ll let my defense do the work, and I’ll do what I can do.”

The Warriors know it’s unlikely that they will hit a season high in runs scored on Friday, but they believe they have a chance to go to Saturday’s championship game if they play their way.

“We’ve got to take advantage of the few opportunities we get,” Somoza said. “We’ll count on our pitching and defense as we have all year.”

Class 3A state baseball

What: No. 7 Edmonds-Woodway (20-5-1) vs. No. 3 Mount Vernon (23-3)

When: 4 p.m. Friday

Where: Gesa Stadium, Pasco

At stake: The winner faces either No. 5 West Seattle or No. 8 Eastside Catholic for the state championship at 7:15 p.m. Saturday at Gesa Stadium

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