PREP BASEBALL: Pair strong on mound for Mountlake Terrace

Reliable pitching is more valuable than ever at this time of year.

In Jake Theis and Kyle Barisic, the Mountlake Terrace High School baseball team has two of the most dependable starting pitchers in the area. So far this spring, Theis and Barisic have combined to go 10-1 for the Hawks.

“They both have been consistent and they both have given us good starts every time they go out there. They both throw strikes,” Mountlake Terrace baseball coach Andrew Watters said of the right-handers.

Watters is hoping for another strong pitching performance when Terrace hosts Stanwood at 1 p.m. today in a first-round Class 4A District 1 tournament game. Theis, a Washington State University recruit who is 5-1 with a 1.53 earned-run average, will start for Terrace (14-6), the Western Conference South Division’s No. 1 seed.

Stanwood (11-8) is the Wesco North’s No. 4 seed.

Three of the eight teams competing in the double-elimination tournament advance to the 4A state tourney. Today’s other first-round 4A district matchups are: Edmonds-Woodway (11-9) at Snohomish (16-4), Marysville-Pilchuck (13-6) at Jackson (14-5), and Shorewood (12-8) at Monroe (16-4).

Theis, a senior, was expected to be an ace for Terrace. Barisic, a junior, has been more of a surprise, Watters said. Barisic (5-0, 2.67 ERA) has done a good job of maintaining his composure and staying out of jams all season, Watters said.

Barisic “has given the same effort every time he goes out there and he gives us a chance to win every game,” Watters said.

The only team to beat Theis this season is Jackson, the South’s No. 2 seed. Jackson coach Kirk Nicholson said Terrace has a roster full of talented players, but the Hawks’ talent on the mound stands out.

“Pitching obviously is probably their strength,” he said.

Stanwood, Terrace’s first-round foe, hasn’t played yet this week because of how its regular-season schedule was set up. The Spartans played their final division game April 25. They have been one of Wesco’s hottest teams, with victories in six of their past eight contests, including a two-game sweep of North No. 1 Snohomish.

Last year Stanwood was also a No. 4 seed. It upset top-seeded Jackson in the first round and got within one victory of qualifying for the state tourney. Nine experienced players are back from that Stanwood squad, including catcher Doug Joyce, a Florida International University recruit who leads the Spartans with five home runs and 14 runs batted in.

“We’re excited to be here and ready for the challenge,” Stanwood coach Tony Wolden said.

Wolden “is a good coach and I expect them to be prepared and be a well-coached team,” Watters said. “I know Joyce is an awfully good baseball player.”

The tourney also features two of the area’s other highly touted players, Snohomish’s Derek Jones and Jackson’s Danny Oh. The Washington State University-bound Jones is a dominant left-handed pitcher who hits for power and helped lead Snohomish to second place in the 2007 state tourney.

Oh, a dangerous hitter who plays center field, has signed with the University of California, Berkeley. He started for Jackson’s storied 2006 team that went unbeaten and won a state title.

There aren’t any easy matchups in this district competition, said Jackson’s Nicholson: “Honestly, this tournament is as tough as any tournament you’ll ever be in because one slip-up puts you in an awful bad situation.”

Teams that lose today must win three consecutive loser-out games to advance to the state tourney.

The first-round matchup for Nicholson’s team is unusually intriguing. Jackson plays Marysville-Pilchuck, which is guided by first-year head coach Kurt Koshelnik. Koshelnik, a 1996 Everett High graduate, used to play for Nicholson’s Everett Legion team.

Every Wednesday Nicholson and Koshelnik get together to play cards, Nicholson said. Today they’ll match wits from opposite sides of the diamond.

Said Nicholson, “It’s a ball. It’s fun.”

Writer Mike Cane: mcane@heraldnet.com. Check out the prep sports blog Double Team at www.heraldnet.com/doubleteam.

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