EVERETT — Thirteen months ago, the Everett High School baseball team was practicing on a football field, playing every game on the road and in the midst of yet another losing season.
What a difference a year makes.
The Seagulls exploded for a six-run fourth inning and clinched their first state berth in 24 years with a 7-3 win over Edmonds-Woodway in a Class 3A Northwest District Tournament semifinal Tuesday evening at Funko Field at Everett Memorial Stadium.
“All these seniors, they’ve worked their butts off for (four) years to get to this point,” Everett junior pitcher Caden Lockhart said. “And to finally be here and to finally make it, it means the world to everybody.”
After recording the final out and achieving their latest milestone in a breakthrough season, the Seagulls tossed their gloves and celebrated along the first-base line. Following the postgame handshake line, one Everett player sprinted toward the bleachers and did a leaping fist pump in front of the cheering Seagulls fans.
“It’s a little surreal, to be honest,” Lockhart said. “I love my (teammates), and it’s amazing. It’s amazing.”
The state-clinching victory advanced the Seagulls (17-5) to Saturday’s district title game against Shorewood, which stunned previously unbeaten Arlington 3-1 in the other semifinal.
It’s been a milestone-filled past few days for Everett’s long-struggling program, which is enjoying its first winning season in more than a decade.
This past Saturday, the Seagulls beat Meadowdale to earn their first postseason victory in nine years. And now, after another landmark win, they’re state-bound for the first time since 1995.
“We’ve just busted our butts every day at practice, we’ve worked hard (and) nobody has a bad day,” Lockhart said. “If you do, you get picked right up. Everybody has everybody’s back. It’s just something that we were lacking a little bit the other years, but it’s here (now) and we’re running with it.”
Edmonds-Woodway, which reached the state semifinals each of the past two seasons, dropped to the district loser’s bracket and will host Snohomish in a winner-to-state elimination game Wednesday.
Everett totaled just three hits in Tuesday’s semifinal win, but drew eight walks and converted one of three Edmonds-Woodway errors into a run.
In fact, the Seagulls began their fourth-inning outburst by scoring two runs without even putting the ball in play. Edmonds-Woodway (13-9) hit the inning’s leadoff batter and walked the next four, giving Everett a 2-1 lead.
“Our strategy worked,” Seagulls coach Alex Barashkoff said. “We knew that the (pitcher) was a little bit wild. That was the scouting report, so we took pitches and it paid off.”
Everett then broke the game wide-open with a pair of timely hits.
Eyler Anderson grounded a two-run single into left field, and three batters later Lockhart lined a two-run double into the left-center field gap to extend the Seagulls’ lead to 6-1.
“We had two huge hits when it mattered,” Barashkoff said. “And timely hits are more important than (getting the) most hits.”
Lockhart pitched a complete game for Everett on his birthday, allowing two earned runs while scattering 10 hits. The junior right-hander struck out five and walked none.
“This moment means the world to me,” he said. “It’s the best way to spend a birthday — just with the team, with the boys. … I couldn’t ask for anything better.”
It was the ninth consecutive victory for the red-hot Seagulls, who entered the postseason having already doubled their win total from last year. Since being swept by Wesco 3A North champion Arlington at the start of league play, Everett has won 15 of its past 17 games.
“They’re confident,” Barashkoff said of his players. “That’s huge when you’re confident.”
Having a home field also has made a significant difference.
For the entire 2017 season, the Seagulls were unable to use their home field at Everett Memorial Stadium because of unusually wet weather that compounded the facility’s already-problematic outfield drainage issues. Then after field renovations were delayed last spring, the baseball program was again without a home for more than half the season. Instead, the Seagulls were relegated to practicing on Everett Memorial Stadium’s adjoining artificial-turf football field and traveling for every game.
But ever since the installation of turf last April at Funko Field at Everett Memorial Stadium, the Seagulls have had their own place to practice and play — and a particularly nice one at that.
“The kids just relish the whole place, so they practice harder (and) they just take pride in it,” Barashkoff said after Saturday’s milestone postseason win. “So just being able to play here and being a part of Everett baseball, they love it, and they just bought into the whole thing.”