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The latest news and analysis on high-school sports around the Seattle area

April 9, 2009 at 10:50 AM

Thoughts on a baseball upset

One team was the undefeated, top-ranked team in Class 3A baseball. The other was sitting near the bottom of the KingCo 4A. But on Wednesday night, that didn’t matter when Eastlake beat Eastside Catholic 12-1 in a six-inning mercy-rule game, and this only reinforced two ideas in my mind:

1. Baseball is unpredictable. Take a look at the pros. The Yankees are 0-2. Last year’s Cy Young winners have been shelled. There’s a reason they play 162 games (other than money); it’s because it takes that long to sort through the unpredictability to find out who the truly best teams are. (For example, and this is somewhat of a tangent, the Lakers right now have a .795 winning percentage in the NBA. In baseball, that would be 128 wins! But that hasn’t happened in baseball because that kind of dominance is so hard to reach, in part because the playing field is leveled by the nature of the game.)

Now look at high schools. Richland, the No. 1 team in 4A with four Division I prospects, lost 4-3 Tuesday night to Davis — that would be 0-4 Davis coming into the game (Richland won the nightcap 7-1). Defending state champ Snohomish lost earlier this season to Monroe, which is under .500. You rarely see those kind of upsets in football and basketball. The unpredictability is what makes the baseball state tournament the biggest crapshoot of all the high-school tournaments, why you see teams near .500 get hot at the end of the season and suddenly make a run (Meadowdale last season comes to mind). One loss doesn’t mean Eastside Catholic isn’t one of the state’s very best teams. But it has to avoid nights like Wednesday to make it to the last weekend in May.

2. The KingCo 4A has to have the state’s toughest schedule. When Skyline, Issaquah and Newport moved up to Class 4A last summer, you could tell it would have an obvious effect on many sports, notably football, gymnastics and soccer. But the first thing I thought when I saw the new KingCo 4A was just how great it was going to be at baseball. Issaquah and Newport have combined for three 3A titles in the past five years, and Skyline was the No. 1 team in 3A at one point last season.

So what does this has to do with Eastlake beating Eastside Catholic? In just the KingCo Crest Division, Eastlake joins Skyline, Issaquah, and Newport, plus Redmond, which was last year’s conference champ. On the other side of the conference are Woodinville (good year in and out), Bothell (made the quarterfinals last season), Lake Washington, Inglemoor, and Ballard (which has UW-bound pitcher Nick Palewicz). So just about every time the Wolves play, they’re going against a very good team. They lost by a run to Skyline, which is ranked sixth and just beat 3A No. 4 Mt. Rainier last night. Eastlake beat Issaquah and played Redmond close. So by the time they played Eastside Catholic last night, the Wolves had already seen great teams, and they clearly weren’t intimidated. A pair of Eastlake players hit home runs, and just as impressively, the Wolves held the Crusaders — who had scored seven or more in five of seven games — to just a run on five hits. So yes, upsets happen in baseball all the time, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to have some practice going in.

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