Had a nice chat with Kamiakin baseball coach Ryan Carter earlier Saturday, and I had to ask him about how last year's crazy finish at the state final four in Tacoma set up this year's players — especially those in their first, full-time varsity season.
"It's their turn, and they're running with it," Carter said. "They're taking that experience they had in the postseason — we brought four or five kids up for the postseason run — and they're taking that and running with it."
For those who don't remember, Kamiakin was the last team standing from what had to be the toughest Class 3A race in the state — maybe in any class — but lost 3-2 to Mount Si in the semifinals when the final out was gunned down at the plate. Mount Si would go on to win the title, while the Braves would go on to get eight players suspended for the next day's third-fourth game, six of them as a "team disciplinary action" for their behavior back at the hotel.
It amounted to just two seniors suiting up the next day against Camas, and six or seven guys playing out of position — many of them getting their first varsity start. Despite all of that, the Braves lost just 6-4 to a team that a day earlier had been undefeated.
Perhaps some of that experience explains why the Braves are off to a 4-1 start despite all those new faces (they're only loss was 5-4 to Mount Si — can you believe it — when Kamiakin had a runner thrown out at the plate). Perhaps it helps explain the great start by junior catcher Ty Earley, hitting .471 with four doubles in his first varsity season, after he got a hit in that third-fourth game as an untested sophomore going up against one of the top teams in the state.
"Geez, that was a tough deal, and they stepped up and played," Carter said.
That game certainly set a tone for Jesse Houser, a regular throughout the season who found a new level of determination that day. I remember how, more than the rest of his teammates, he was truly angry about how the season ended.
"I had to wrestle the ball from him in that third-fourth game," Carter recalled of going out to the mound in the sixth inning. "He was at 124 pitches, and I told him, 'I'm gonna get arrested for child abuse if I leave you out here.'
"He has prepared himself, as the whole senior class has. They understand what it takes to be successful, and they're prepared to be successful and make a run to Gesa Stadium to make that ride."