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Defending champion Cougars aim to repeat | Bothell baseball preview
Fresh off the Bothell High baseball program’s first state championship last spring, one would expect the blue-clad boys to be riding a wave of confidence heading into the 2012 season.
The Cougars, however, graduated nearly all of their impact players from last year, including staff aces Brian McAfee – now pitching at Cornell University – and Henry Baillargeon, leaving them with the need to form their own identity.
“We’re just in a process of rebuilding after losing such a strong senior class,” said head coach Paul Moody, adding that his team was mired in a five-game losing streak after an opening-day win over Bellevue. “ We started out a little slow… then won our last three (games).”
The main problem facing the Cougars this year is that graduating the amount of seniors the program did last spring, it didn’t allow many of this year’s starters much in the way of varsity playing time.
And in the tough Kingco league, it can be a steep learning curve.
The main exception to that rule is junior catcher Samuel Lee (right), who got to start as a sophomore last year and has put up torrid numbers at the plate so far this year. He is currently third in the league in batting average at .519 (14-for-27) and second in slugging percentage (.815).
“Being around all those players last year really helped him,” noted Moody on Lee’s success. “He’s one of the few legitimate comeback kids I have, that were on that team. He’s a good player, a good catcher, hits pretty well and works hard.”
Also off to solid starts are seniors Rex Carlin, a pitcher and second baseman batting .385, and first baseman Zach Anderson (.308).
On the mound, the Cougars graduated one of the state’s finest in McAfee, but the 16th-year coach hopes the pitchers that have paid their dues in the program will step up while it is their turn to shine.
“Probably our best pitcher right now is Brady Mickelson,” said Moody. “He’s done okay (for) a senior that didn’t get to pitch much last year. He’s kind of earning his wings this year.”
So far in four starts, Mickelson is 1-1 with a 1.75 ERA, with his only loss being a tough-luck 1-0 shutout to Roosevelt back on March 20.
A NEW IDENTITY
Going forward, Moody said that he doesn’t talk about last year’s success with his team, because it’s apparent that the Cougars are a different squad.
“I think by now they’ve kind of divorced themselves from (winning the championship), because they know that so many of those kids are gone,” Moody described. “They’re just trying to be themselves, and play the best they can. We’re just letting them develop their own year.”
Bothell, however, is not the only team that lost a lot.
The Redmond Mustangs, who joined the Cougars in Tacoma last year as state semifinalists, lost three Division I-bound athletes and are currently 1-7.
The key, according to Moody, will be how quickly his players can gain that precious experience and learn what it will take to put a “W” on the board.
Clearly, the proverbial pot of gold is still on the other side of the rainbow, ready for the taking if the team can peak when it matters most.
“We need to gain experience quickly,” he said. “The second key is learning how to win in this league. It’s a tough league.”
The Cougars resumed their league schedule on Thursday night on the road against Eastlake, after the Reporter’s deadline.