When asked about the 2011 high-school baseball season, Puyallup coach Marc Weise said it best. It’s “one of those years where it’s up for grabs.”
The season is underway – when the weather allows – and teams all over the state have championship aspirations. While polling coaches and members of the media, the only consensus is there are no early season unstoppable forces on a collision course for a revamped Cheney Stadium, which will house the Class 4A and 3A championships, because Safeco Field is unavailable.
Like basketball, expect plenty of surprises.
As I started to place teams in the rankings last week, the top spot in each classification seemed like a lock. Redmond opened the year 2-0 and held a national ranking (No. 49) in the ESPN RISE Fab 50.
Then the Mustangs dropped two games to Southridge over the weekend (20-2 and 15-5) and I had to find a new No. 1 in the first week’s rankings. Now, the Suns are a very good team with several Division I players and Redmond didn’t throw Dylan Davis or Zach Abbruzza, so I didn’t drop the Mustangs very far, starting them at No. 3.
All of the top teams in the state will take a few early losses. I would have been comfortable with second-ranked Kentwood, which returns Avery Kain and has a lot of talent, or No. 4 Newport, with Jared Fisher and Cole Wiper, in the top spot, but I went with Richland to open the season.
The Bombers, who won the 4A title in 2009 and then made a surprise run to the title game last year with a young team, open the season as one of the favorites to win it all and, after a 3-0 start, they’ve earned the top spot for now.
Lake Stevens rounds out the top five and is led by Dylan LaVelle. While the Vikings are the highest-ranked WesCo team in 4A to open the year, the league will be as tough as ever with teams like Jackson and Edmonds-Woodway fighting it out with Lake Stevens.
I expect a lot of movement in the bottom five with plenty of talented teams on the bubble capable of cracking the top 10.
Shorewood, which finished fourth in 4A last season, heads into the year as the favorite after dropping down a classification. Led by senior pitchers Blake Snell and Kevin Moriarty and first baseman Trevor Mitsui, there is a lot of talent on this team.
Last season Enumclaw finished third in the state tournament and brings a lot of experience into 2011, so the Hornets open the year at No. 2.
I thought Southridge would open the year in the fifth or sixth spot, but that lopsided doubleheader victory over Redmond vaults the Suns to No. 3, while Camas, which finished second to O’Dea last year, is No. 4.
Now, after winning the last two state titles, don’t count out O’Dea, which seems to play its best baseball late in the season. The Irish come in at No. 6, one spot behind Mercer Island.
Expect a lot of early season movement in 3A, much like 4A.
The other thing I wanted to mention is team records. With so many rainouts, accurate information is difficult to find for some schools, so if you see a record that is off, let me know.
1. Richland (3-0)
2. Kentwood (1-1)
3. Redmond (2-2)
4. Newport (Bellevue) (2-1)
5. Lake Stevens (1-1)
6. Emerald Ridge (Puyallup) (1-1-1)
7. Jackson (Mill Creek) (1-0)
8 Kentlake (1-1)
9 Ferris (Spokane) (2-0)
10 Puyallup (2-0)
On the bubble: Curtis, Bothell, Edmonds-Woodway, Federal Way, Gig Harbor, Inglemoor, Issaquah, Marysville-Pilchuck, Mount Rainier, Olympia, Skyline, Tahoma, Woodinville, Union.
1. Shorewood (Shoreline) (2-1)
2. Enumclaw (3-0)
3. Southridge (Kennewick) (2-0)
4. Camas (1-0)
5. Mercer Island (2-0)
6. O’Dea (2-2)
7. Bishop Blanchet (3-1)
8. Mount Si (Snoqualmie) (1-1)
9. Kelso (1-2)
10. Mt. Spokane (0-2)
On the bubble: Bellevue, Eastmont, Hanford, Hazen, Highline, Kamiakin, Lake Washington, Liberty, Meadowdale, Mountain View, Mountlake Terrace, Nathan Hale, Seattle Prep, West Seattle.