Mount Si seniors Troy Baunsgard and Harrison Clark were thrilled to be playing the sport they love on a shiny new turf field on the school campus on March 10.
Formerly a catcher, Baunsgard has been manning the shortstop position since his 14U days and was rewarded with a first-team all-4A KingCo honor last season.
“I feel like it gives me the opportunity to show off my athleticism and kind of control the infield, and it makes me feel like the field general out there,” said Baunsgard, whose team will be absent from the diamond while practices and games are cancelled through at least April 24 due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Clark, a first baseman who made the KingCo second team last season, added: “I’ve always loved baseball since I was a little kid. I love the competition aspect of it and I love how challenging it can be.”
Head coach Brent Lutz said the seniors are strong leaders who play the game hard and with heaps of enthusiasm.
The Wildcats, who finished 9-11 overall and 9-9 in league play last season, began practices at the new facility at the start of the month. It features two all-turf fields (one for baseball and one for fastpitch softball), spacious batting cages and bullpens, a concession stand and storage rooms. It’s a “Field of Dreams”-type thing, Lutz said.
“We finally have our beautiful new facility here, so that’s just a big win,” the coach added. “For three years, we were spending up to three hours a day on the bus, just to get to practice. So we’ve kind of removed that, so that allows us to focus more on getting stuff done. So we’ve got our cages and don’t have to put everything in our truck and haul gear there.” They used to practice and play games at Bannerwood Park in Bellevue and sometimes at Ravensdale Park, often returning home at 11 p.m. each night.
Lutz beams with pride when discussing the players in the program, especially the seniors, who have never played a home game or practiced on campus.
“This group has always been excited and wanted to work hard. I just think they see what has been built for them and how they can take advantage of it and get better,” Lutz said.
Clark added that jumping in the car for a 10-minute drive to the field is a great way to go.
“Being able to come and get your extra work in whenever you want is really nice. Not having to bus around, so it’s a big extra boost for us,” he said.
Other top Wildcat returners are junior catcher Cam Ferreri and junior starting pitchers Dawson Schneider and Turner McCutchan, who are joined on the pitching staff by junior Tyler Disch and sophomores Jake Smith and Aidan Dougherty.
Lutz instills a “No Fear” style of play where the Wildcats go full speed ahead at 100 percent when the ball bounces into action. They’ll be aggressive on the basepaths, swing the bat well and try to cut down on strikeouts.
The gloves will be solid, but the coach added with a smile: “I always tell them, ‘Hey, if we’re gonna make an error, make sure it goes in the parking lot, make it an epic error.’”
Baunsgard said he’s confident in the Wildcat pitching staff and wants to make some noise with his bat to support his hurlers.
Clark feels the Wildcats have the talent on board, they just need to zone in on their mindset to notch some wins. He’s hoping to hit line drives and keep the runs scoring. Extra-base hits and hopefully some home runs will be part of his agenda at the plate.
Coming off the high of Mount Si’s 4A state boys basketball championship, Baunsgard wants his team to be extra fired up on the diamond.
“First practice back after the (hoops) championship, I talked to the team along with the coaches and we were just like, ‘You guys need to feed off that ‘cause if that doesn’t hype you up for the season, then you don’t have a heartbeat.’ It doesn’t get better than that,” said Baunsgard, who was part of the rabid Wildcat student cheering section.
The brotherhood aspect of the Mount Si squad is important to Baunsgard, who added: “I’ve made some of the best friends from this program and those guys will stick with me my whole life.”