Baseball focuses on KingCo title

All 10 spring sports are previewed in this week’s issue of the Reporter, including the baseball team, which has high hopes for this season after making the postseason in 2008. - Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter
All 10 spring sports are previewed in this week’s issue of the Reporter, including the baseball team, which has high hopes for this season after making the postseason in 2008.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/Mercer Island Reporter

The Mercer Island baseball team has been mired in a dark decade. The last time when the Islanders won the league title was 1998. But last year, the team finished at .500 and made the playoffs. This season, the playoffs will be handed to every team in KingCo and motivation will have to come from within. Only time will tell how the team and the program react.

“I voted for the top four option because I want them to work for it,” said Islander coach Brian Potoshnik. “But we are not settling. We want to take things further this year.”

Potoshnik’s motivation and coaching style have spurred a change in attitude in the entire program.

“We have turned a corner, but we haven’t gone all the way,” said Potoshnik.

The statistics back up Potoshnik’s attitude with more freshman turning out and only the third trip to the playoffs in the last 11 seasons. Attrition was one area where the team had been having problems. But the coach said that 90 percent of his junior class, which was comprised of freshmen when he started, have stayed with the program.

Although the coach is encouraged by the talent that he sees at practice, the uncertainty of the current team has led Potoshnik to curb his enthusiasm.

“I just haven’t seen how they will react in a game situation yet,” said Potoshnik. “I am assuming our defense will be good, but you don’t know until you get out and play.”

Potoshnik’s defense will be anchored by the sure-handed junior shortstop Willy Reel.

“I can get pretty intense, and he keeps things light,” said Potoshnik. “He leads more by showing kids how to work hard.”

The pitching staff will need to rely on that defense. Although the team has no definitive aces, Potoshnik is encouraged by the quality of all his pitchers. Senior Cameron Wilson will be the team’s No. 1 pitcher. But the Islanders will also have to rely on Reel and sophomore out fielder Jordan Rishards to take the mound despite not pitching last year.

“We have eight guys that can pitch, and they can all be good,” said Potoshnik.

Mike Potoshnik, the coach’s nephew, will be the team’s closer. With senior AJ Simpson behind the plate, the Islanders will have experience to lead them.

“It is important to have roles so they know what is expected of them,” said Potoshnik.

Mercer Island doesn’t have any big power hitters this year, but the coach is not worried.

“We will play more hit and run, steal, play small ball,” said Potoshnik. “We don’t have the big boppers, but we won’t strike out as much, and we have a solid lineup one through nine.”

The team’s captains, Reel, David Courtney and Wilson, bring years of experience at the varsity level.

That experience will come in when the team plays Bellevue, Mount Si and former 4A school Juanita, and attempts to shine some light on its first KingCo title in over a decade. “We have the talent,” said Potoshnik. “We just have to fit the pieces into the puzzle.”

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