Southridge coach Tim Sanders had no qualms about putting Jake Harvey in the leadoff spot for the Suns this season.
He also used a black Sharpie to put him at shortstop, and occasionally penciled him in on the mound. In fact, Sanders trusted that wherever he put the multi-faceted junior, he would get the job done, and the numbers back him up.
Harvey, who hit .515 and helped lead the Suns to a second-place finish at the 3A state tournament last month, was named the Herald’s All-Area baseball Player of the Year.
“Who, me? I care more about our season,” Harvey said. “We had a great year. This is just another award for doing so well with my team.”
Jason Jarrett, who coached Tri-Cities Prep to a 25-1 record and a second-place finish at the 2B state tournament, was named coach of the year.
“All in all, it was a great season,” Jarrett said. “I couldn’t have asked for a better performance from the guys. You get what you put into it.”
Harvey, a first team all-Mid-Columbia Conference selection at shortstop along with Walla Walla’s Mitch Lesmeister, elevated his game in the postseason.
He was the winning pitcher in postseason loser-out games against Mt. Spokane, Kamiakin and Mercer Island (5-4 in state semifinals), which was ranked No. 1 in the state at the time.
“He wanted the ball more than he got the ball,” Sanders said. “Most of the guys want the ball. We knew we had a guy who could go up there. He has a little velocity, a breaking ball. Interesting not having the starts until the end of the season, but we knew he was a guy in a loser-out game that could go in and bulldog his way through.”
Harvey admitted he was a little nervous working off the same mound as Felix Hernandez, but that catcher Lane Hailey helped keep him calm.
“I was just throwing and concentrating — just me and the catcher,” Harvey said. “I tried not to get too amped up. Just throw strikes. It was crazy.”
The following day, the Suns dropped the title game to Gig Harbor 5-1, but that didn’t take away from the thrill of reaching the championship game and playing at Safeco Field, home of the Seattle Mariners.
“We lost 12 seniors last year, but having young guys come up and be successful, that was awesome,” Harvey said. “On Thursday when we did the walk through, we couldn’t touch the grass, so we had to stay on the warning track. It’s way bigger than what you see on TV. When we got there for the game, it was like ‘bring it on, this is awesome.’
“Playing there, I thought the gaps were bigger. When I hit the triple to start off the championship game, it went further than I thought. Mason’s (Martin) double in the first game (semifinals), I thought that was gone, but it was at the warning track.”
Before the Suns (23-5) got their trip to Safeco, they battled through a tough MCC schedule, finishing 12-2 and 17-3 overall.
Kamiakin would grab the regional title from the Suns, but Southridge got payback in the first round of state, posting a 6-3 win to stay alive.
In the quarterfinals, the Suns beat O’Dea 8-6 to punch their ticket to Seattle.
Along with his sterling batting average, Harvey also had an on-base percentage of .617. He scored 43 runs, had 47 hits, 12 doubles, five triples, 14 RBIs and eight stolen bases.
“He’s our energizer at the top of the lineup,” Sanders said. “He gets to first base, and credit to the guys behind him, they hit the ball and drive in runs. He wouldn’t get home if not for Mason and Lane and others. Runs are a product of everyone doing their part. Any way he can, he will find a way to score.”
On the mound, he was 4-0 with five saves, a 2.30 ERA and 19 strikeouts over 27 innings pitched.
“He plays in the middle of the infield, you can put him on the bump, he does everything we ask him to,” Sanders said. “Those who have played shortstop, it is a tough position. Everything is at a premium. It is a demanding position. Your mind has got to be defensive, and the offense is secondary.”
For Harvey, he’s just doing his part.
“In general, I just like to win, but on the field, when you make unbelievable plays that will hype the team up, it can push some energy into your hitting,” Harvey said. “We have a lot of guys coming back. I feel we will have a better team next year. I think we will have a another shot at it.”
Sharing first-team honors with Harvey are teammates Martin, Hailey, Nick Grade and Wyatt Hull. Walla Walla has two players in Lesmeister and pitcher Dexter Aichele, while Tri-Cities Prep’s Carter Ritala, Kennewick’s Trent Sellers, Kamiakin’s Ryan Dearing and Tyson Brown, and Chiawana’s Troy Simpkins and Andrew Vargas also were chosen.
Jaguars on the rise
Jarrett, in his seventh year at at the helm at TCP, has watched his teams make the playoffs four times, but this season was special.
“That says something about what we are doing here at Prep,” said Jarrett, whose team lost the 2B title game 5-3 to Colfax. “That was an awesome game. Nine innings. They left everything on the field. You couldn’t ask for a better 2B state final. It was phenomenal.”
TCP was led by first baseman and EWAC Player of the Year Carter Ritala, who was chosen to play for Team Rainier in the All-State Series this weekend in Yakima.
Jarrett will coach Team Rainier, which also will feature Lesmeister.
All-Area Baseball Team
MVP: Jake Harvey, jr., Southridge. Coach of the Year: Jason Jarrett, Tri-Cities Prep. 1B: Carter Ritala, sr., Tri-Cities Prep. 2B: Trent Sellers, jr., Kennewick. 3B: Nick Grade, so., Southridge. SS: Mitch Lesmeister, sr., Walla Walla. C: Lane Hailey, jr., Southridge. DH: Tyson Brown, sr., Kamiakin. OF: Mason Martin, sr., Southridge; Ryan Dearing, sr., Kamiakin; Andrew Vargas, sr., Chiawana; Util: Troy Simpkins, sr., Chiawana. P: Wyatt Hull, jr., Southridge; Dexter Aichele, sr., Walla Walla.
1B: Christian Berry, jr., Richland. 2B: Carson Green, jr., Kamiakin. 3B: Payton Flynn, jr., Kamiakin. SS: Brian Hawkins, sr., Connell. C: Carter Davis, sr., Walla Walla. DH: AJ Wiegand, jr., Hanford. OF: Brady White, sr., Hanford; Blake Loftus, sr., Kennewick; Derek Harder, sr., Richland. Util: Dylan Grogan, sr., Stanfield. P: Lino Rivera, jr., Kiona-Benton; Brayde Hirai, sr., Chiawana.