All the pieces to the puzzle that is the Edmonds-Woodway baseball team seem to be falling into place.
While the Warriors graduated some key infielders and pitchers from last year’s district playoff team, coach Joe Webster has a solid nucleus of returners and a more than ample contingent of newcomers eager to prove themselves.
“We’re pretty deep,” said Webster, who is starting his 13th season at Edmonds-Woodway. “We’ve got a lot of new kids who did really well on the JV team last year but they haven’t played up here yet, so it might take them a little while to adjust to the speed and everything on varsity baseball in general.
“But I think the talent is there for us to be real competitive.”
Key returners for the Warriors include No. 1 pitcher Reed Brown, third baseman/pitcher Jake Beattiger, catcher/outfielder David Dwyer, shortstop/pitcher Andrew Hutt and second baseman Titus Lester, all of whom were starters last year.
Webster expects a spirited competition for the three starting slots in his pitching rotation.
“The JV pitchers will also be in competition to be in the rotation,” Webster said. “We have four or five guys to compete for the three starting spots and then we’ll have to find some relievers based on what’s left.”
Graduation took some of the power out of the Warriors’ lineup but the end result may not be a bad thing after all.
“Offensively I don’t think we will have as much power as we’ve had the last couple of years but I think that we’ll have a little more speed,” Webster said. “If things go the way I plan, I hope we’re pretty balanced.
“I don’t think they’ll be any one phase of the game where we’re great at. I don’t think they’ll be any phase of it that we’ll be poor at.”
If the Warriors’ hitting and pitching are to a certain extent unknowns, Webster is hoping his team’s defense is not.
“You can always play good defense,” he said. “Some years you have great arms on the mound or you have really strong hitters, but you can always play good defense and you can always run the bases well. I’m still anticipating that we’ll do that.”
Webster sees Jackson as the front-runner in the Western Conference 4A South Division, though he added that Kamiak should be right there with the Timberwolves.
The rest of the teams in the league may beat up on each other.
“There are a whole bunch of teams that will be very competitive,” Webster said. “One or two games will probably separate a lot of teams.”
Here is a look at the other three Edmonds district teams:
The Royals’ senior class heads into the season determined to erase the memories of a disappointing 2003 campaign that saw the team lose 18 of 20 games.
Second-year coach Evan Metz senses a definite change in his players.
“The biggest impression I’ve had is our attitude as a team,” he said. “Everybody has come in with a lot of focus and a good spirit and they’re ready to work hard and play hard.”
Lynnwood has room for improvement in just about every facet of its game.
“The team as a whole … struggled in pretty much every category — pitching, defense and offense,” Metz said. “We’ve made some improvements in our offense and in our defense. I think our pitching as whole … (is) still young.
“But I think we’ll compete much better this season.”
Metz is expecting big things from his seven seniors and a solid junior class.
“They’re kind of tired of getting beat up on,” he said. “We’ve got to step it up a bit. Those juniors and seniors are ready to do that.”
If the Royals are able to turn things around it will be a team effort.
“I don’t think we have one top standout (player),” Metz said. “I think I have a group as a whole that plays together well. They’ve been playing with each other for quite a while.”
Juniors Paul St. Marie and Adam Villalobos are Lynnwood’s most experienced pitchers and will be backed up by some talented underclassmen.
The Royals’ offense has more speed than a year ago but still has some decent power.
“We’ve got some guys that can run and some guys that can swing it pretty good,” Metz said. “We have a good core of hitters all through the lineup.”
Lynnwood’s outfield should be solid but the numbers in the infield are lower than Metz hoped for.
“Guys are competing for positions,” he said. “They’re giving it everything they’ve got to get that job.”
The Royals will be battling 3A counterparts Meadowdale and Shorecrest for two automatic berths to the district playoffs.
“My goal is to be competitive in every game and to get ourselves a playoff berth,” Metz said.
Mavericks coach Ron Martin heads into the 2004 season with a young team that has plenty of potential but an equal number of unknowns.
Nine seniors who helped lead the Mavericks to the district playoffs are gone and their replacements are largely untested junior varsity players. Eight junior varsity players and one freshman are on the varsity squad.
“There are a lot of new people out there,” Martin said.
Meadowdale returns one starting infielder in Porter Balke, who takes over at shortstop, and outfielders Justin Lucero and Ryan Marin.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” Martin said of the upcoming season. “But that’s the way it is almost every year in high school baseball … You just hope that the people that have moved up step up their level of play. Very often they do. Sometimes they don’t.”
One characteristic Martin has noticed about his players is that their level of play is about the same across the board.
“There’s a lot of evenness on the team,” Martin said. “There’s are a lot of outfielders who are about the same level. There are infielders about the same level and some pitchers who are about the same level.”
During a preseason scrimmage last week, Meadowdale’s pitchers dominated the hitters but Martin isn’t rushing to any judgments, noting that it’s difficult to evaluate his players when they’re going up against their teammates.
“You don’t know until the actual game starts and you get in pressure situations,” Martin said. “There are times when you actually know how good you’re going to be because you’re just better than everybody else and you’ve got a lot of people back.
“I don’t know about this team. We have the potential to be good.”
Coach Andrew Watters is cautiously optimistic that the Hawks are on their way back after a tough 2003 season that saw the team finish at the bottom of the league standings.
Mountlake Terrace, however, is still a young team that is likely to experience some growing pains with three sophomores and eight juniors.
“We’re definitely looking to be better than last year and take a step in the right direction this year,” Watters said.
The good news is the Hawks return six starters and have all but one of their pitchers back.
Watters will have plenty of options when it comes time to settle on his rotation.
“We have eight guys that are working out as pitchers with the varsity team right now, which is an awful lot for a high school team,” said Watters. “This early season we’re going to basically kind of set the roles for all those guys and figure out who’s going to get the innings. It’s more of a competitive atmosphere within the team.”
Mountlake Terrace struggled offensively and lost several close games toward the end of last year and Watters is hoping the Hawks will be able to rectify that situation this season.
“That’s the one area we need to prove ourselves in the early season and prove that we’re going to be able to get enough runs across,” he said. “We lost a lot of low-scoring, one-run games last year.”
Watters expects third-year letterman Garhett Morgan to have a solid season at the plate and will be relying on his senior standout to help lead the younger players.
Senior Nate Nicholson is the Hawks’ most experienced pitcher and also will play in the infield.
Defense was one of Mountlake Terrace’s strengths last season and should continue to be.
“We have a lot of moving parts, a lot of guys that are going to play different positions and are capable of playing different positions,” Watters said. “I think we’re going to be pretty strong defensively and hopefully that’s enough to keep us in ball games.”