Prep baseball preview: Hawks headed east to compete in State Tournament semifinal

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The 2018 Mountlake Terrace Hawks are looking to become the first state baseball champions in school history; the team needs to win two 2A state tournament games in Yakima this week to accomplish the feat. (Photo by Jonah Wallace)

Already soaring higher than any previous Terrace baseball team, the Mountlake Terrace Hawks are hoping to reach new heights this weekend and bring home the school’s first state baseball championship.

Terrace faces the West Valley (Spokane) Eagles in a WIAA 2A State Baseball Tournament semifinal game on Friday, May 25, in Yakima; with a win, the Hawks would play for the WIAA 2A State title on Saturday.

No Terrace baseball team has played in a state semifinal tournament game, so making the trip to eastern Washington on Friday is hardly being seen as an inconvenience for Coach Andrew Watters and his squad.

“We’re happy to make the drive – and we’re going to make the best of it,” Watters proclaimed.

After putting together a 13-7 regular season record, the Hawks have gone 6-1 in the postseason to get them to the 2A baseball final four. Watters credits strong pitching and  team experience for the success, especially during the team’s late run this year.

Our pitching’s been great for a long time now, since the playoff’s started,” Watters said. “Tanner (Boe) and Kendall (Yackley) have done a great job and Dillon Gordon has been fantastic in relief.”

With the three hurlers, Terrace opponents have scored an average of 1.71 runs per game this postseason. Yackley is working on a current streak of eight scoreless innings pitched while Boe has recorded 14 strikeouts in his 17 innings on the mound during the playoffs.

Despite the high pressure that comes with postseason tournament baseball, Watters has been impressed with his pitchers – and the Hawks fielders as a whole.

“They’re staying cool,” Watters noted. “Kendall’s staying cool; Tanner’s staying cool. And our defensive players are staying cool. We’re making plays at the right time.”

The calm confidence the team has shown is notable considering that four of the five District 1/2 tournament games that Terrace was involved in were one-run affairs – and two of those ended in walk-off style.

Watters praised his players for the way they have responded in tight ball games.

“The biggest thing as a team, they’re handling these moments with great poise and composure,” Watters explained. “And that’s really the key thing, I think, that’s getting us through the playoffs right now. We’re handling tough situations really well.”

“We’ve played with a lot of poise and composure, and it shows,” Watters continued. “It’s been showing the whole playoff season.”

With 11 returnees from last year’s team, plus six players who were on the 2016 squad (Yackley, Boe, Matthew Johnson, Jonathan Kumai, Dan Bingaman, Max Coleman, Tyson Kim), the Hawks are loaded with experience. Watters points to that as the biggest source of the team’s ability to stay calm and controlled. But he also stressed the team’s mental focus and strength.

“It comes from experience and I think it comes from mental preparation,” Watters said. “They understand just staying in the moment and staying in the situation and not getting too caught up in results. They’re doing a great job with all that stuff – it’s stuff that I preach, but it takes them to have the experience to go out there and do it and perform it that way.”

The team recently was named the WIAA 2A State Baseball Academic Champions for having the highest overall team grade point average of all 2A squads in Washington state. Watters sees a direct correlation between the players success they are having with their grades and as a team with 19 wins to its credit so far this year.

“These kids are very heady; they’re very intelligent and composed kids,” he stated. “It’s showing on the baseball field as well as in the classroom.”

With a state championship on the line, the Hawks will put aside their academic studies for a couple days this week starting with their Friday state semifinal contest against the Eagles; first pitch at Yakima County Stadium is scheduled for 1 p.m.

Riding a five-game winning streak, Terrace is hoping for two more wins, one state trophy and to make school history by Saturday.

To view the WIAA 2A Baseball Tournament bracket, click https://wiaa.com/ardisplay.aspx?ID=1753.

–By Doug Petrowski

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