Prep baseball: Teams ‘bringing their best’ as District tourney play gets underway Tuesday

Edmonds-Woodway Coach Dan Somoza (upper center) is all smiles as his defending district champion Warriors secured the no. 2-seed in this year’s 3A District 1 Baseball Tournament; E-W begins tourney play on Saturday, May 4. (Photos by Doug Petrowski)

Just how unpredictable are the high school district baseball tournaments? Take it from someone who has been there often, Edmonds-Woodway Coach Dan Somoza: “Districts is crazy time, so anything can happen in those games.”

Somoza and his E-W Warriors, along with the Mountlake Terrace Hawks and the Meadowdale Mavericks, begin postseason play this week as the always-chaotic 3A District 1 Baseball Tournament is set to get underway on Tuesday.

The three Edmonds School District representatives will be fighting it out with nine other District 1 qualifiers for tourney glory and ultimately, spots in the WIAA 3A State Baseball Tournament that takes place later in May.

The Warriors, this year’s no. 2 seed in the district tourney, are the tournament’s defending champions and are looking to survive the madness of these postseason games to repeat as district champions again this year.

“Everyone’s going to come (to the district tournament), competing and bringing their best,” Somoza said. “So we’ve just got to play our best game and have fun — doing what we’ve been doing all year.”

The Warriors have been the cream of the crop among the Wesco League 2A/3A teams this year, claiming the regular-season league title with a 13-1 record and going undefeated in their final eight regular season contests. Somoza gives much of the credit to his team’s success to his young pitchers.

“Our pitchers have been outstanding,” Somoza said. “Lukas Wanke’s been a really good pitcher; Grafton (Marshall-Inman) has been pitching really good too. And so those have been sort of our one-two pitchers. Our pitching staff’s really what’s held us all together.”

E-W’s team ERA for the year is 1.486. Wanke, just a sophomore, has posted an ERA of 0.66 with 43 strikeouts this season; Marshall-Inman, a freshman, has an ERA of 1.41 and 41 strikeouts this year.

With just five seniors on the roster, Somoza has been all smiles with the play of his underclassmen. “It’s a young team but they have a lot of energy and are very athletic,” he said. “It’s been a fun year.”

Mountlake Terrace Coach Ryan Sells (left) encourages senior Talan Zenk during the Hawks’ April 25 game against Cascade. Zenk is one of Terrace’s offensive leaders, batting .415 with a slugging percentage of .547 and 17 stolen bases this season.

The Warriors’ opponent in last year’s 3A District 1 tournament championship game, the Mountlake Terrace Hawks, are back into the postseason again this year after posting an 11-3 Wesco League record, 15-4 overall. The Hawks are the no. 4 seed in this season’s tourney.

“I feel good,” Terrace Coach Ryan Sells said of the postseason outlook for his squad. “You look at the record, we’ve been playing good baseball; we’ve been playing tight baseball.”

Unlike the Warriors, the Hawks boast a big upperclassman presence with 11 seniors on their roster.

“Senior leadership, it’s going to be huge for us,” Sells said. “These guys have been here the last couple of years with both of our runs — (with) a lot of the same guys coming back and new mixtures coming up from JV. It’s worked really, really well. This team’s got good camaraderie, it’s got good leadership and the sky’s the limit.”

The Hawks enter the district tournament with five wins in their past six outings and scoring almost six runs per game during that final stretch of the regular season. But Sells zeroed in on team pitching for much of their success. Terrace’s top starter, sophomore Owen Meek, has an ERA of 1.70 and 32 strikeouts; teammate Ethan Swenson’s ERA sits at 1.68 heading into the district tourney.

Meadowdale Coach Darren Watkins (far right) addresses his squad after the final out of their 2-1 loss to Edmonds-Woodway on April 25. The Mavericks are the no. 11 seed in the 3A District 1 Baseball Tournament and play no. 10-seed Snohomish in a tourney loser-out contest Tuesday.

For the Meadowdale Mavericks, the District 1 3A Baseball Tournament represents a chance to get moving in a positive direction after an up-and-down regular-season campaign. The team lost three of its final five regular season matchups, but the Mavs’ 7-7 league mark, 10-10 overall record and District 1 RPI ranking earned them a no. 11 seed in the 12-team tourney.

“We snuck in and we’re happy about that,” said Mavericks Coach Darren Watkins.

The Mavs are strong up the middle, a key for any team’s success on the diamond, with sophomore Isaiah Kepoo-Sabate rising as their top pitcher and playing shortstop when not on the mound. Senior Nolan Webster has had a good year at the plate and also behind it as the Mavs’ starting catcher. Junior Nicholas Zardis, a middle infielder, is “swinging the bat really well right now,” said Watkins.

Watkins believes the Mavericks’ best ball has yet to be seen. “We haven’t peaked yet and I’m just waiting for that,” he said. “We’re just going to work hard and whatever happens is going to happen.”

Meadowdale won’t have the luxury to wait on getting winning results in the tournament as the Mavs’ must face no. 10-seed Snohomish Tuesday, April 30, in a tourney loser-out game. The Warriors and Hawks don’t begin tournament play until Saturday, May 4, when the double-elimination portion of the tourney starts.

The Mount Vernon Bulldogs, who went 15-0 in the 1A/2A/3A NW Conference, 19-2 overall and are no. 1 in the WIAA 3A state RPI rankings, earned the no.1 seed in the District 1 tourney. The Monroe Bearcats are seeded no. 3 in the district tournament. The top four teams to emerge from the district tourney earn berths to state.

To view the entire District 1 3A Baseball Tournament bracket, click www.wpanetwork.com/wiaa/brackets/tournament.php?act=view&tournament_id=4310.

2024 District 1 3A Baseball Tournament (Edmonds School District teams)

Edmonds-Woodway Warriors
Head Coach: Dan Somoza (14th season)
2024 record: 13-1 in 2A/3A Wesco League (regular season champions), 16-4-1 overall
District tourney seed: no. 2
District tourney first game: versus opponent to be determined Saturday, May 4 at a time to be announced at Edmonds-Woodway High School
Key players: Lukas Wanke, junior pitcher; Grafton Marshall-Inman, freshman pitcher; Diego Escandon, senior outfielder; Thomas Shults, senior catcher

Mountlake Terrace Hawks
Head Coach: Ryan Sells (4th season)
2024 record: 11-3 in 2A/3A Wesco League; 15-4 overall
District tourney seed: no. 4
District tourney first game: versus no. 5-seed Shorecrest; Saturday, May 4; 2 p.m. at Mountlake Terrace High School
Key players: Talan Zenk, senior shortstop; Owen Meek, sophomore pitcher; Ethan Swenson; senior first baseman/pitcher; Matthew Meadows; senior outfielder

Meadowdale Mavericks
Head Coach: Darren Watkins (3rd season)
2024 record: 7-7 in 2A/3A Wesco League, 10-10 overall
District tourney seed: no. 11
District tourney first game: versus Snohomish; Tuesday, April 30; 4 p.m. at Snohomish High School (tournament loser-out contest)
Key players: Malikhi Emery-Henderson, senior outfielder; Isaiah Kepoo-Sabate, sophomore shortstop/pitcher; Nicholas Zardis, junior infielder; Nolan Webster, senior catcher

— By Doug Petrowski

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