EDMONDS — It’s been a long time in coming.
Friday marks the first time the Edmonds-Woodway baseball team has played in the state semifinals since the merger of Edmonds and Woodway High Schools in 1990, and the payoff is that the Warriors will get to play at Safeco Field.
“It’s an honor to even go and watch a game there, and to play there is even greater,” said senior ace pitcher Nick Hull, who is headed to Division 1 Grand Canyon University this fall. “My goal as a baseball player is to play professionally at some point so this will hopefully be like an early taste for me.”
Hull (6-0, 1.61 ERA) will be on the mound at 7 p.m. when the third-ranked Warriors (19-6) take on No. 5 Gig Harbor (22-4) in the Class 3A semifinals. The winner takes on the victor of No. 1 Mercer Island and No. 4 Southridge in Saturday’s championship game at 7 p.m.
The Warriors reached the final four with an epic 8-7, 10-inning victory over Arlington in the regional finals last weekend at Skagit Valley College. That victory came after the Warriors won the Wesco South regular-season title and avenged a pair of regular-season losses to Shorewood to claim the 3A District 1 title two weeks ago.
Woodway High School captured the state title in 1979 and Edmonds High School was second in 1983. E-W has lost to the eventual state champions during first-round state play in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
“I think it all starts with our seniors,” said head coach Dan Somoza, a 1994 E-W alumnus who is in his ninth year as the head coach of the Warriors. “They have outstanding leadership and are great players and great human beings. They do awesome in the classroom. Everything you would want from a group of seniors and they’ve led the way for this team, so it’s pretty exciting to watch. That’s where the foundation starts.”
That includes not only Hull, but shortstop/pitcher Brandon Mitchell, catcher/utility player Kosta Cooper, catcher/utility player Garrison Krohn and outfielder Aaron Ramos.
Several were members of E-W’s last state-qualifying squad in 2014 when the Warriors lost in the first round of regionals to eventual champion Puyallup.
“When we were on varsity as freshmen, the senior leadership was impeccable and it really made an example of what we were supposed to do,” Mitchell said. “We’ve all learned to lead by example, which is very important for the underclassmen.”
Mitchell has been E-W’s top offensive player this year with a .451 average, four homers, 15 doubles and 26 RBI. The Claremont McKenna baseball commit was penciled in as the Warriors’ No. 2 pitcher, but suffered early season arm trouble that limited him to playing first base and serving as DH for much of the season before returning to shortstop several weeks ago.
Krohn, bound for Division III Pacific (Oregon), is hitting .324 with 15 RBI and serves as the catcher when starting catcher Cooper pitches. Cooper is headed to Bellevue College and is hitting .295 with a team-leading 22 runs scored from the leadoff spot as well as a 2-1 record with a 1.71 ERA. Cooper will start Saturday either in the championship or third-place game as he emerged as E-W’s No. 2 pitcher when Mitchell experienced arm trouble.
Hull is a hard-throwing righty with 91 strikeouts in 60 innings pitched, and a penchant for baseball superstition. Relegated to DH duties in the regional final after earning the victory in E-W’s first-round win over Mountain View, Hull moved around the Warriors dugout in search of the right “juju.”
“We’re all really confident in him and we know as long as we put a run or two up on the board we’re going to get that win,” Mitchell said. “It’s funny to watch all his little routines that he does. He won’t let anyone touch the ball before he goes out. If someone does he’ll tell them to put it back down. It cracks me up.”
Beyond the senior class the Warriors have relied on a bevy of role players like juniors Jacob Kitchen (.302, 14 RBI), Julian Kodama (.284, 22 runs) and Tai Starchman (.250), and sophomores Ian Michael (4-0, 2.23 ERA), Gunnar Whitelaw and Karsen Tjarneberg.
Michael, Starchman and Tjarneberg were all members of the Lynnwood-based Pacific Little League team that reached the Little League World Series in 2014.
“They’ve played in big pressure situations, way more than even we’ve seen,” Somoza said. “We’ve had a lot of players fill in roles and do an outstanding job of just getting better throughout the year. That’s the goal and it’s fun to watch.”
Southridge (22-4) is the only team returning to the final four from last season when it placed third. Mercer Island (20-2) is making its first appearance since topping Shorewood for the Class 3A state title in 2015. Gig Harbor reached the Class 4A state semifinals in 2015 and settled for third place.
Meanwhile E-W will look to make its own history beginning Friday.
“(Ian Michael) said it kind of under his breath to our teammates: ‘Guys I kind of have a feeling we can’t lose,’” Hull said, paraphrasing his younger teammate. “And this year we’ve had so many come-from-behind wins and walk-offs and for me I feel like there is a reason this keeps happening and that it’s not over for us yet.”
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