MIHS baseball qualifies for state

Mercer Island High School’s baseball team will soon be hitting the basepaths at the 3A state tournament.

With a 9-3 victory over Juanita in a loser-out game on May 9, the Islanders qualified for state, which will commence on May 14. The 3A KingCo tournament game took place at Bannerwood Park in Bellevue and closed out the four-day tourney.

The sixth-seeded Islanders first defeated Liberty (Renton), 5-3, in a loser-out game, then beat Juanita, 6-4, before losing to Lake Washington, 4-2, in the title game.

MI finished in second place in the KingCo tournament and advances to state with first-place LW.

Senior pitcher Tyler Gilroy fired a complete-game victory in the winner-to-state contest against Juanita. On the offensive front during that critical triumph, the Islanders received a two-RBI single and sacrifice fly from senior Jayden Wang and RBI singles from senior Cole Rowe, juniors Gabe Lopez, Jacob Colyer and Charlie Seneker and sophomore Jaxon Aufranc.

“This team is so special, and the bond that we have created between one another has put a lot of trust within the team. Everyone is doing their part to help the team win and I believe we have a chance to do something really special this year,” said Gilroy, who is a second-team 3A all-KingCo selection.

Other all-leaguers are first-team junior pitcher Jack Buchan and honorable mentions Neal Baron (senior), Tyler Williamson (junior) and Wang.

Seneker chipped in with his thoughts about the Islander squad: “The reason this team is special is the brotherhood and trust we carry. We have done a great job picking one another up and passing the baton throughout (the) playoffs so far and it has led to success.”

Junior James Mangold said the team’s perseverance and fight mentality are special components the Islanders have on their side.

“At the start of the season, a lot of people counted us out, said we weren’t good enough. We took that personally and it fueled our energy and desire to win going into (the) playoffs,” he said.

Head coach Chris Lawler praised his team’s stout and solid pitching as one of the keys to its success this spring. In the first Juanita playoff game, Aufranc threw six innings of stellar ball and senior Kellan Wu entered the game and notched a huge save.

With bats in hand, the Islanders have come through big time lately. Lawler explained: “We knew that if we could get some timely hitting, our pitching was going to keep us in it. (In) the last week, the bats have really come alive and we’ve got some really incredible situational clutch hitting and that’s really what kind of propelled us to the state run so far.”

Lawler added that the defense has been on top of its game as well, making it a well-rounded team effort that sends the Islanders into the state realm.

MI alums Lawler along with assistant coaches Keegan Ogard and Michael Petrie are making an immense mark with the current Islanders in their first year on the job. Lawler said the former MI players-turned-coaches are building on what erstwhile head coach Dominic Woody did for the program for the last 10-plus years.

“To kind of leave our imprint in year one and make a state run, I think it’s just a testament to the guys on the team, accepting us in our first year and really buying in to continuing to play Mercer Island baseball,” said Lawler, adding that it means the world to him and his assistants to be back and coaching at MI.

“We’re hoping to leave a stamp on this program for years to come,” Lawler concluded.