Islander baseball is in search of steady ground

Team hasn’t won the KingCo championship since 1998

Team hasn’t won the KingCo championship since 1998

By Matt Phelps
Mercer Island Reporter

Nearly every preseason day this spring the fields at Island Crest Park have been soaked with rain. The slick shaky ground and wet sky is not baseball weather but yet the Islander team still had practice.

“I have told them it is my job to prepare them for games,” said first year Mercer Island head coach Brian Potoshnik. “When we play it is their time. But we are going to out work every team. I hate losing and I want them to have a passion and fire for the game on and off the field.”

The passion might have been a part of Islander teams during the past decade but the problem has been the losing. The Islanders last won the 3A KingCo title in 1998 and Potoshnik is the eighth different head coach since that banner was raised.

“There are no excuses,” said Potoshnik. “It’s OK to lose, as long as you learn something. But if we lose it is my fault for not preparing them.”

Potoshnik’s fire for the game and hands-on approach is resonating with the team.

“This is my senior year and I am excited about our new coach,” said Joseph Bassetti. “He is very intense. He works with the kids and doesn’t stand there yelling at them.”

With all the rain the team has done its share of hitting drills inside the cages.

“I think we are one of the only teams outside in the cages,” said Islander senior Robbie Philbrick. “We have gap power and we will be able to put up some runs.”

The Islander pitching staff features Philbrick, junior Chris Black and Bassetti. Philbrick could be the team’s No. 1 starter but none of the players possess overpowering stuff.

“Our pitching is solid,” said Philbrick. “We have three of four seniors on the staff.”

Potoshnik said that he was pleasantly surprised at one senior Chris Hotson.

“We don’t have any big-dog pitchers but we can compete,” said Potoshnik. “We just need to be aggressive.”

One big arm the Islanders will be without is Matt Boyd, who transferred to Eastside Catholic for academic reasons. Boyd came up to the varsity late last year and had an immediate impact. In an unusual move the Islanders’ pitching coach is Matt’s father Kurt Boyd.

“We would like to have him,” said Potoshnik. “I wish him the best. It’s not always about sports.”

The Islanders also lost a second player to Eastside Catholic in Andreas Plaickis.

The 3A KingCo division harbors some of the best teams in the state and competition got tougher this off season with Skyline moving back from the 4A level.

“It is definitely one of the better leagues,” said Potoshnik. “But I was pleasantly surprised at the talent level here. I have raised the bar on them.”

The coach knows the league and has scouted KingCo for talent the past five years as an assistant at Bellevue Community College. But with competition Potoshnik knows that high school baseball is about more than wins and losses.

“I bring credibility as a former college coach and I want to establish a classy program,” said Potoshnik. “It is how you act win or lose.”