While Eastlake was locked in a three-way battle with Inglemoor and Bothell for the top spot in the Crest, Skyline and Ballard went down to the final day of the regular season to decide the champion of the Crown.
Coach Chris Tamminen’s Spartans made it back-to-back division titles with a 6-1 win over Ballard to secure the top seed from the division to the conference tournament.
But after accomplishing the same feat last year, only to bow out in two straight games in the KingCo tourney and watch their season end prematurely.
“This is a whole different team,” Tamminen said, adding he has only one true returning starter from the 2012 squad. “I’m very excited for this group to see what they can do.”
The pitching staff has more than held its own during the conference season, posting four shutouts and allowing more than three runs only twice since late March. The quartet of Drew Lunde, Corbin Powers, Arthur Stromquist and Jacob Gleichman has shouldered the load, each working more than 25 innings and Stromquist posting a team-high 40 and two-thirds on the hill this year.
Powers leads the team in ERA at 0.52 with Stromquist allowing only 1.20 runs per seven innings, followed closely by Lunde at 1.66.
“They’ve done a darn good job,” Tamminen said of his pitching staff. “Their poise, getting out of tough spots, picking up our defense when we didn’t play catch real well behind them, they have just done great.”
At the plate, senior Matt Sinatro and juniors Jake Kargl and Jason Santiago have combined to knock in 33 runs, with Kargl accounting for both of the team’s home runs on the year. Senior Chris Rogers has also played a role, tied for the team lead in RBI with 11.
“We can’t sit back and just kind of wait for the big hit,” Tamminen said of his team’s approach offensively. “We’ve done a great job with fundamentals – getting a bunt down, hitting the ball to the right side, getting a guy in scoring position, getting a sacrifice fly.”
The Spartans have also stolen 42 bases on the year, with two players posting double-digit steals in Sinatro and junior Cole Blackburn, and have been able to put pressure on opposing teams and pitching staffs throughout the year, building a grind-it-out mentality up and down the lineup.
“This team, as a unit, the character we have is pretty special,” Tamminen said. “It has been nice to see in tight situations.”
The intensity will only continue to mount for the Spartans from here, as they open the KingCo tournament on Saturday against Redmond, the last team to defeat them, at 4 p.m. at Woodinville High School. After a season of close-calls – Skyline has played seven one-run games this year – Tamminen said he believes they will be up for the challenge.
“I’ve been doing this for quite awhile, and the KingCo playoffs are tough,” he said. “It’s going to be a new experience for all of them.”