High expectations soared over the heads of the Eastside Catholic baseball team last season. The Crusaders ran the table in the Metro League, going a perfect 16-0 in the regular season — before it all came crashing down.
“We held our breath and we battled through all 16 games, we just ground it out,” head coach Curt Towey said. “Then we got into the playoffs and we took a breath, and that was it.”
Eastside lost two straight postseason games to Seattle Prep and West Seattle and missed the 3A state playoffs with a 20-3 record.
The experience was difficult to digest, but Towey believes it will serve as a great learning tool for the large core of players who return for 2009.
“This year it’s pretty cool because most of the guys are going to realize that they don’t have to go 16-0,” he said. “We’re going to learn about ourselves and our game, and what we can do and what we can’t, and then get to the playoffs and go from there.”
The Crusaders lost three key position players, including third baseman and Boston College recruit Spenser Payne, and shortstop and Baylor University recruit Cal Towey.
Eastside doesn’t lack talent in the infield this season, however.
The Crusaders have three senior Division I recruits playing in the infield. Second baseman Mike Englund signed with Arizona State University, shortstop Mike Bush signed with the University of Oregon and first baseman Matt Boyd will play at Oregon State University next year.
“We have a pretty solid infield,” Towey said. “We’re young at catching, we’re young at third base, but everything else is pretty solid.”
The Crusaders graduated eight-game winner TJ Parthemer, but fill in nicely at the pitching position. Boyd, a left-hander, won seven games, and junior Sam Lindquist is a dominant force at 6-foot-6, 220 pounds.
Eastside Catholic also returns a solid outfield led by four-year varsity starter Kellen Matsuno.
The Crusaders will play all their home games at Bellevue Community College this season because their home field has yet to be constructed. The large venue will no doubt impact a team that hit over 40 home runs last year, but Towey is prepared.
“We’re going to do a lot of bunting and stealing,” he said. “I don’t want my guys swinging for the fences.”
Towey said Metro Mountain Division will be a challenge this year.
“Our division is tough,” he said, noting that he thinks Bishop Blanchet will be the likely favorite.
Eastside Catholic starts its season at 5:30 p.m., Monday against Newport at the University of Washington Ballpark.