From left, Mercer Island baseball captains Noah Hsue, Jack Smith and Alex Shanks (Joe Livarchik/staff photo).

Mercer Islanders looking to bring out the bats in 2017 | Prep baseball preview

Two years removed from bringing home a state championship, the veteran players of the Mercer Island baseball team are finding that measuring success can sometimes be a relative interpretation.

“[Coach] Woody has been talking a lot in practice about [how] once you taste that state championship and feel that glory of bringing a state championship back to Mercer Island, you want to repeat that as much as you can,” said senior captain and starting shortstop Jack Smith, one of the three remaining starters from the Islanders’ 2015 team, along with second baseman Noah Hsue and outfielder Alex Shanks. “We all were there … We know what it’s like, we know what it takes and we’re just trying to pass that along to the young guys as best we can.”

A state championship remains the goal for a Mercer Island squad that certainly has taken its program to new heights in each of its last two seasons. After winning the program’s first 3A state crown in 2015, the Islanders returned to the state tournament last spring, making back-to-back state tournament appearances for the first time in program history. The Islanders, who finished last season with a 20-5 overall record, fell to Southridge 11-1 in the opening round of the tournament.

Mercer Island wasn’t without hardware in 2016. The Islanders won their first KingCo 2A/3A league title since 2010 with a conference record of 16-2. This year, the Islanders want to take winning KingCo one step further, a goal that may be inspired by last year’s season-ending loss.

“One thing we want to do that we haven’t done yet is win the [KingCo] postseason tournament and be a No. 1 seed at regionals instead of having to go somewhere as a No. 4 seed and have to play a really good team in the first round [of the state tournament],” Hsue said.

Mercer Island coach Dominic Woody said while a state championship is always a goal, he primarily wants to see that the effort from his team is consistently there throughout the season.

“Coming off of last year, the one thing I want to do is make sure that we’re ready to put our best foot forward,” Woody said. “Regardless of what happens toward the end of the year, we can say, ‘Hey, we went out and gave it our best shot.’ And if we lose, it’s because we got beat that day and not because we were deficient in some way, shape or form.”

Mercer Island will return six starters in 2017, but will experience quite a changeover on the pitcher’s mound. The Islanders saw the bulk of their starting rotation graduate last spring. A total of six players from last year’s varsity roster went on to play collegiate baseball, including stalwart hurlers Lucas Chapman, Harrison Goonewardene and Peter Lopes. The trio accounted for 130 innings pitched out of the 165 total for the 2016 season. Fellow 2016 grad Andrew Pickles, a basketball commit who suited up at the University of California, Santa Barbara this year, accounted for another 18 innings on the mound last season.

Still, this year’s Islander lineup boasts five Division I commits, with three of the five being juniors. Smith is committed to play baseball at Washington State University next year and fellow senior captain Hsue is committed to the University of Washington.

Where pitching was a strong suit a year ago, the Islanders will now look to make some noise on the other side of the plate.

“[Hitting] will be pretty sound all the way from numbers one through nine in our lineup,” said starting outfielder Alex Shanks, a junior who is committed to Gonzaga. “I don’t think there is gonna be any gaps from a hitting standpoint.”

With Redmond dropping down to the 3A class this year, the KingCo 2A/3A league has reconfigured from six teams playing each conference opponent three times, to seven teams playing each conference opponent twice.

The Islanders expect to face stiff competition from the Kirkland area, with big matchups against the defending 3A state champion Lake Washington Kangs (7 p.m., April 12 at Island Crest Park; 7:15 p.m., April 28 at Lee Johnson Field) and the Juanita Rebels (4 p.m., March 31 at Lee Johnson Field; 4 p.m., April 17 at Island Crest Park). The Islanders also expect competitive league games against the rival Bellevue Wolverines (4 p.m., April 7 at Island Crest Park; 4:30 p.m., April 24 at Bellevue High School).

But team goals remain at the top. And with new faces taking the field this spring, Woody said he’s most eager to see who on his roster will surprise him the most.

“I’m excited to see how things go forward and see who’s gonna step up,” Woody said. “That’s always the exciting thing as a coach. You think you know who you can rely on. There’s always gonna be a few question marks. There’s always gonna be a couple positives, a couple negatives and you’re always excited to see how it’s gonna play out.”

More in Sports

Photo courtesy of Billy Pruchno
                                The Mercer Island Islanders girls golf team captured first place at the Burlington Invitational golf tournament on April 16. The Islanders, who compiled 355 total points (low score wins in golf) edged out second place Sammamish by 28 strokes. Mercer Island golfers Ella Warburg and Gihoe Seo tied for second place individually, with each golfer shooting a 79 on the 18-hole course. The Islanders have won all four golf tournaments they’ve competed in during the 2018 season thus far.
Mercer Island wins Burlington Invitational

Islanders girls golf team continues its winning streak.

Photo courtesy of Jay Na
                                The Mercer Island Islanders girls track team earned a 84-65 victory against the Liberty Patriots on April 5. The Islanders improved their overall record to 5-0 with the victory. Islanders athletes earning first place in their respective events consisted of Gretchen Blohm (200, 400 relay, 800 relay, 1600 relay), Margaret Baker (400, 800 relay, 1600 relay), Chloe Michaels (1600, 3200), Maya Virdell (300 hurdles, 400 relay, 800 relay, 1600 relay), Eliza Crenshaw (400 relay, 800 relay), Katie McCormick (400 relay, high jump), Ella Hensey (1600 relay, long jump), Faith Osei-Tutu (shot-put) and Aleksandra Kogalovski (pole vault). Crenshaw (pictured) competes in the 800-meter relay against Liberty.
Islanders girls track team remains undefeated

Mercer Island girls track squad improves overall record to 5-0.

Photo courtesy of Debby Wilson
                                Mercer Island Islanders girls water polo player Annie Ritcey, who is one of the team captains, unleashes a pass during a game during the 2018 season. The Islanders have just one loss thus far.
Islanders girls water polo program is thriving in the pool

Mercer Island girls water polo team has compiled five victories thus far.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Krohn/Patrick Krohn Photography
                                Mercer Island Islanders defender Reis Kissel, left, dribbles the ball upfield while being guarded by Interlake Saints midfielder Andre Garone, right, in a matchup between KingCo 3A teams on April 11 at Interlake High School in Bellevue. Mercer Island defeated Interlake 2-1 in the contest.
Islanders conquer Saints in rivalry showdown on the soccer field

Mercer Island survives Interlake rally in the second half.

Islander teammates Alex Seidel and Sabrina Kwan pose in front of the pool where they competed in the NCAA D3 National Swimming and Dive Championships.
Islanders compete at NCAA championships

Two MIHS teammates raced in A finals for the NCAA D3 National Swimming and Dive Championships.

Photo courtesy of Patrick Krohn/Patrick Krohn Photography
                                Mercer Island pitcher Robert Weaver surrendered just two hits in seven innings of work on the hill against the Edmonds-Woodway Warriors in the 2017 Class 3A third/fourth place game on May 27, 2017 at Safeco Field in Seattle. The Islanders defeated Edmonds-Woodway 2-1 to capture third place at the state tournament.
Islanders baseball program is absolutely dominant

Mercer Island is undefeated on the diamond.

Playing multiple sports creates better, healthier kids, says physical therapist

Special to the Reporter In an era of specialization in sports involving… Continue reading

Photo courtesy of Rick Edelman/Rick Edelman Photography
                                The Mercer Island Islanders boys lacrosse team earned their fifth win of the 2018 season courtesy of a 14-5 victory against Lakeridge on March 23. Mercer Island player Donnie Howard (pictured) controls the ball while being defended by a Lakeridge player.
Islanders boys lacrosse team captures fifth victory

Mercer Island boys lacrosse squad remains undefeated.