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Dueling throws: Mount Si's mighty defense holds off Mercer; hits are coming, team says | Photos
It was a duel of defenses as Mount Si faced Mercer Island Wednesday, April 4, in their home opener.
Hits were few on both sides, but Mount Si pitcher Trevor Lane came away with the laurels, as he and the Mount Si defenders held off the Islander bats in fast innings.
Pitching and defense are Mount Si's focus, says Lane, who felt good at the end of his third start for the Wildcats.
"I knew I was going to be able to go the distance. Everything was on: my fastball, my off-speed," Lane said.
"We knew they were going to be throwing their ace," he added.
College prospect Max Dammeier led the Islanders from the plate. Mercer's defense was tight, but Mount Si shortstop Ryan Atkinson managed to scramble home on an error, allowing the 'Cats to edge out a win.
"Twenty-one outs," head coach Elliott Cribby said. "We make teams earn everything."
Memorable moments included Lane and Atkinson chasing down Island runners, ball in hand, in the top of the second. Fellow senior Reece Karalus snapped up a hit to first in the fourth and was waiting for the runner. Lane praised junior Gunnar Buhner for some "sweet plays" on defense.
Mount Si's Ryan Atkinson tags out a Mercer Island runner during play early in the Wildcat home game Wednesday. Defense is a main focus for the defending state champs. Photo by Calder Productions.
Hitting off college prospect Dammeier proved a daunting challenge. But the Wildcats made it happen on occasion.
"When you see an arm like that, it's tough to score runs," Cribby said. "You have to execute when you can."
As 2011 State Champs, the Wildcats have a target on their backs.
"This league is very tough," Cribby said. "Everyday, they're going to come after us."
Finding hits was the big challenge Wednesday. But with batters right at the plate, Damnier's fast balls earned multiple walks.
Junior Brian Woolley's helmet went flying at one point. The dazed player was substituted by Cody Eads.
"We've been pushing them all game," Cribby said. "He started to go to his off-speed stuff—we were on his fastball pretty good."
Lane got on base first for the Wildcats, in the bottom of the first, with a nice drive to second. Karalus also smashed a double in the first, caught by an Islander just shy of the center fence. Carson Breshears hit a single in the bottom of the fifth, but was put out at the base.
As the fifth inning progressed, the Wildcats loaded bases with walks off Dammeier. With Atkinson on third, Karalus on second and Daniel Besmer on first, Evan Johnson stepped to the plate. With two strikes, Atkinson came home on a pass play.
"All aboard," came the cry from the dugout. But Atkinson was the only 'Cat to cross the plate, though in the event, one run was all Mount Si needed.
Mount Si catcher Zach Usselman in action against Mercer Island. The sophomore is building skills as part of the Wildcat battery with Trevor Lane. Photo by Calder Productions.
At the plate
On the other end of Lane's throws was Mount Si Catcher Zach Usselman. A sophomore, Usselman has grown up a lot, teammates say.
"We're still working on framing pitches, we've still got a lot of work to do, me and him," Lane said. "We're going to be able to excel and do great things."
Usselman "has done an outstanding job so far, and he's only going to get better," Cribby added.
"We're still trying to find a lineup," Cribby said. "Defense and pitching is our priority. The guys we trust out there defensively are going to get a better opportunity. We do need to find guys who are swinging a bat."
"Pretty soon, we're going to explode," Lane said. "We're going to start mashing the ball."
• Mount Si visits Juanita at 4 p.m. Friday, April 6. The team then heads to Liberty Monday, hosts Sammamish Wednesday, April 11, and visits Lake Washington on Friday, April 13.
• You can see more photos of the Mount Si game at Curt Carlson's Mount Si baseball gallery: https://picasaweb.google.com/MtSi.HS.Baseball
• Follow the Wildcats at http://mtsihsbaseball.com/