With their season on the line the Mercer Island Islanders baseball team rose to the occasion against the Bonney Lake Panthers in the Class 3A state quarterfinals.
Mercer Island, which uncharacteristically committed four throwing errors in the bottom of the first inning, easily overcame their miscues en route to a convincing 12-4 victory against the Panthers in a loser-out playoff game on May 20 at Bannerwood Park in Bellevue. Mercer Island starting pitcher Robert Weaver, who committed three throwing errors in the bottom of the first, wasn’t rattled by one subpar half of an inning. The gritty right-handed hurler pitched a complete game, surrendering just eight hits in the most important game of the season to date for his team. Weaver said he was able to settle down after a rocky start.
“Before the game there were some jitters. It was the first time I was playing in a season ending game. I just had to get over it and I went back to doing what I always do,” Weaver said.
Mercer Island senior infielder Noah Hsue, who will play baseball at the University of Washington next year, credited Weaver for displaying his mental toughness in the face of adversity.
“You can’t say enough. To be able to stay out there and just bare down was incredible. I think he threw around 80 pitches the whole game. It’s big time,” Hsue said of Weaver.
The Islanders pounded out 14 hits in the victory. Mercer Island put up four runs on the board in the top of the first and poured in four more runs in the top of the fourth, extending their lead to 9-3. In the top of the sixth, the Islanders added three more runs transforming the contest into a blowout. Mercer Island junior Parker Simpson went 3-for-4 at the plate with 3 RBI. Islanders’ sophomore Cole Miller went 3-for-3 with 3 RBI as well. Mercer Island head coach Dominic Woody was glad to see his team dominate the final six innings of play. The Islanders outscored the Panthers 8-1 in the final six innings to put the game out of reach.
“We wanted to keep adding runs and keep piling on because you got a great opponent across the way,” Woody said of Bonney Lake. “We’ve been following them all year and they were a club that I thought most mirrored what we do. They can really swing it and they were really clean defensively. I didn’t think it was going to turn out like that [blowout victory] but that is why you play the game. I’m absolutely ecstatic right now.”
Mercer Island will face the Southridge Suns in the Class 3A semifinals at 4 p.m. on May 26 at Safeco Field in Seattle.
“We have four goals at the beginning of the year. They are to win the regular season, win our district, win a regional and win a state championship. Right now three of those four boxes are checked. We are only one of four teams left in the state in the 3A classification. I’m excited for Monday [practice],” Woody said.
Hsue is excited about the opportunity for the program to win its second state crown in the past three seasons.
“It is special, especially with this being my senior year. This team seems a lot like the one that won it [2015 season]. There isn’t any quit in these guys and we’re a deep team. I think we got a good chance of doing the whole thing this year,” Hsue said.