Changing the attitudes of players on a squad such as the Mercer Island High School varsity baseball team is not easy. Ridding the players mind of losing thoughts before they step on the diamond can be difficult after a decade of sub .500 seasons. But those attitudes and habits have to change before the record will improve. Coach Brian Potoshnik is changing his players habits in hopes that the team’s 1-6 record will be different come May.
“I am trying to teach baseball and the lessons of life,” said Potoshnik. “We had a couple of kids who were 40 seconds late to practice and they got benched. There are no excuses. We have a young team but we need to approach the team and the game with maturity.”
The Islanders did not run a few lines after their 10-2 loss to Issaquah Thursday — they ran laps around the outfield for a half an hour.
“I’ll take responsibility for every loss. It means that I am not preparing them right,” said Potoshnik. “But this will help their endurance. I am not going to bail out when they lose and neither will they.”
Potoshnik knew the league and situation he was entering when he took the job during the off season. But there was one thing that surprised him about his players.
“Their passion to play for each other and the school is like I would like to see,” said Potoshnik. “They show it at times, but we have to stay aggressive.”
The Islander’s game against the Eagles was close until the fifth inning, typical of their losses this season. The Islanders gave up two runs during the top of the first inning but came back with a run of their own when Chris Black knocked in Joey Scalzo on a base hit. But pitching continues to be a weak point for the team as they gave up two more in the second and fifth run during the third inning. A long home run by Islander Robbie Philbrick electrified the Mercer Island fans and brought the Islanders back into the game at 5-2. Three errors sank the Islander defense as Issaquah put finished the game with five runs in the final three innings.
“We have played with Newport and Issaquah,” said Potoshnik. “Any team in this league can beat anyone on any given night.”
The Islanders were beat by Interlake 5-1 on March 3 despite six hits and staying the in game throughout the contest.
“It is kind of hard to evaluate where we are right now,” said Potoshnik. “But they are hitting the ball hard. I am seeing players go 0-for-4 and hit the ball hard. You just have to stay aggressive and let it go.”
One of the biggest problem for the Islanders has been injuries. Senior pitcher Joe Bassetti was in street clothes for the game against Issaquah and other injuries have forced Potoshnik to go with younger players. But Potoshnik’s way of coaching may be starting to pay off, if not on the scoreboard than in the dugout. Spring break is a time that many Mercer Island athletes leave their sports teams for vacations, even if the squad has league games to play.
“These guys understand that you have to stick with it,” said Potoshnik. “We will be at full strength over spring break and the kids will get better and have more confidence in each other as they play together.”
The Islanders played at Skyline Tuesday (after Reporter deadline) and at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 12, will host Liberty at Island Crest Park.