MI postseason lasts one game

Second baseman Joey Scalzo puts down the tag on a runner during the Islanders’ loss to Issaquah on May 6 at Bannerwood Stadium. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
Second baseman Joey Scalzo puts down the tag on a runner during the Islanders’ loss to Issaquah on May 6 at Bannerwood Stadium.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

Facing a team’s No. 1 pitcher during the first round of the playoffs can be daunting. And while the Islanders had Cullen Russel on the mound against Issaquah on May 6 at Bannerwood, the Eagles were missing their ace due to an SAT exam.

But the Mercer Island players made spot-starter Tyler Vanderboegh look like Cy Young in the season-ending 5-0 loss.

“This is a young team, and they might have let up since it wasn’t their No. 1 guy,” said Islander coach Brian Potoshnik. “But you have to tip your hat to their pitcher.”

The Islanders only got five hits off the Eagles but were in the game down to the final out.

Russel began the game in shaky fashion, allowing two runs during the first and never really got on track. The Mercer Island defense bailed Russel out with a double play from shortstop Willy Reel to second baseman Joey Scalzo on to first baseman Lubo Dimitrov, ending the threat.

A key strikeout by Russel during the third inning and pop-fly to centerfielder Chris Black ended another Issaquah threat.

But two runs during the fourth inning chased Russel from the mound.

Mercer Island looked to be in business during the top of the seventh as Alex Faith reached first base on an error and Ben Shoemaker earned a hit. But a called strike three and a pop fly ended the threat.

Islander batters had no answer for Vanderboegh as he threw a complete game shutout.

“We needed to be ready for who ever was on the mound and we just didn’t have it today,” said Scalzo.

The loss dropped the Islander’s overall record to 10-11 on the season.

“We just had an of day,” said Shoemaker. “This team came together this year and we turned into a genuine ‘team.’

We knew that we had to start it for the younger guys because they will carry the team in the next few years.”

Mercer Island finished the regular season with a .500 (8-8) for the first time in 10 years.

For seniors like Shoemaker and Scalzo the loss was hard to take but they know the season might be a turning point for the struggling program.

“It felt good this year,” said Scalzo. “We got a hot start and turned a corner.”

That corner has been a sharp one for a team that has only made the post season once since 1998 and the first round of the KingCo playoffs for first time since its last KingCo title a decade ago.

“This was a step in the right direction,” said the second year head coach. “This senior class really set it up.”

Players like Russel and Scalzo came out of no where to be among the league’s best players.

“Joey was the bus driver,” said Potoshnik. “When he got healthy it turned it all around for us. But we are going to need some young guys to step up and fill holes next year. But that is what building a program is about.”

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