Washington State Baseball Hall of Fame head coach Paul Moody has seen a lot of crazy baseball days in his 25 years of high-school coaching at Bothell and Inglemoor. But never has he ever seen a day with the highs, and ultimately lows, of last Saturday’s opening day of the state baseball tournament for the Cougars.
Bothell (17-8) started the day playing the best it has all year, dominating from the first inning and beating Central Kitsap, 22-3, at Kent Memorial Park. The second game against Kentlake was another blowout, with the exact same 22-3 score. The only difference being Bothell ended up on the losing side.
“No,” Moody said with a chuckle about if he had ever seen anything like that before. “That was the strangest thing ever.”
Coming off a surprise 4A Kingco championship victory against No. 2 ranked Redmond, Bothell couldn’t have scripted the opening game against Central Kitsap (15-6) at state any better.
The rout started early, as Bothell’s first five hitters all scored, capped by a two-run home run into the popular trees in left field by Ian McKay.
“He hung a curve ball, and it is that simple. It goes pretty far when you hang curve balls,” McKay said. “We just came out swinging the bats like crazy … That team had a great record. I didn’t think we were going to go out and do that.”
Even the most optimistic of Cougar fans could never have imagined the ensuing offensive onslaught. Every Bothell starter got a hit, with seven getting two or more. Every Bothell starter scored a run, with six scoring two or more. Bothell brought at least nine people to the plate in three of the first four innings. And leadoff hitter Cory Burk had three at-bats before South Kitsap’s No. 9 hitter had one.
The individual performances were equally as impressive. Senior right fielder Beau Breda, who also had a rocket throw to nail a runner advancing to third base that would have made even Ichiro Suzuki proud, went 4-for-5 with six RBIs.
“I was preparing for a close game, grind it out to the end, but thankfully we got the easy win there,” Breda said. “We were prepared for this. We got some good film on them.”
McKay went 2-for-3 with three runs scored, including the home run in the first. Cory Burk had doubles in his first two at-bats and ended with three runs scored.
Six of Bothell’s nine hitters were pulled by the seventh inning, but even the bench players got into the act, going a combined 4-for-10 in the game.
It all ended up to be 23 runs on 23 hits.
“Pitching, pitching, pitching — or lack of pitching,” Moody said. “We knew they didn’t have a strong pitching staff out there and we prepared for that kid, and we just took it right to them.”
The pitching credit goes to senior Kevin Higginbotham, who followed up his complete-game victory to get Bothell to state with six strong innings of work, giving up just two runs.
“That was a good hitting team, so we shut down some good offense of theirs,” Moody said. “And then our kids just swung it so well.”
The second game could not have been more opposite. Bothell fell down early, trailing 8-0 after three innings and a 13-run fourth inning turned the game into a blow out. Moody ended up trotting out six different pitchers, but none of them could find their groove.
“We didn’t pitch well to know (how good Kentlake is), that’s for sure,” Moody said. “Obviously they swung it real good. They had four, five home runs, so they swung the bat awfully well. So who knows, we can find out.”
While Bothell couldn’t throw Higginbotham in the second game, Moody said he believed Kentlake (20-4) saved its best pitcher for the second game, a sophomore named Zach Wright.
“He was clearly good,” Moody said. “He threw a no-hitter for a long time, and we just didn’t respond offensively. And then our pitching got away from us.”
Many of the Cougar faithful who had made the trip were visibly and audibly upset with the way the second game went, voicing much of their frustrations at the opposing team and fans, in addition to the umpire. Kentlake tried stealing bases up by double digits several times, tried taking the extra base whenever possible and even brought the infield in up by 19 runs in the fifth inning.
But Moody didn’t blame Kentlake’s coaching staff and said if anything needed to change, it’s the fact there wasn’t a mercy rule in effect in state games. In the regular season, the game ends after one team leads by 10 runs after five innings.
No matter what happened on Saturday, Moody said he was proud of the team and what it accomplished. Many thought Bothell might have a rebuilding season after losing several key players off of last year’s team that placed fourth at state. But Bothell still ended up getting a bye in the first round of the Kingco playoffs and won the Kingco tournament.
“You never think you can probably repeat the year before quite so well,” Moody said. “And our kids were right back here in the state tournament again, and really one game away from getting back to Safeco (Field), so lots of credit to these kids.”