A funny thing happened on the way to this league championship for the Skyview baseball team.
The hype was there early, with so much talent returning to the Storm. This team, the baseball community said, was tops in Southwest Washington.
Only, it did not start out that way.
“We let it get to our heads at the beginning of the season,” said Ian Hamilton, the team’s top pitcher.
No one from Skyview is complaining about that now.
“It’s hard sometimes,” added Brayden Maney, one of the team’s biggest bats. “You become bigheaded. You think you’re too good. We went 1-3 at the start of the season. It made us realize we weren’t as good as we thought we were.”
The Storm went back to work after those non-league losses, then worked out those early season frustrations on the rest of the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League. Skyview earned the No. 1 seed for this week’s district tournament by going 14-1 in league play, and had clinched the title with a few days left in the regular season.
“We really started coming together as a team, and we blew through the league,” Hamilton said.
This is Skyview’s third consecutive league title. This one might mean a little more because the league, from top to bottom, is more talented that in past seasons, Storm coach Eric Estes said.
While every team has at least one solid pitcher, and every team has several quality position players, Skyview probably has the most of everything a baseball team needs.
Maney was hitting .386 with 18 RBIs, 15 runs, and 11 doubles going into Friday’s regular-season finale. The Storm are not lacking in offense.
Still, Estes said pitching depth has been key to his team’s success.
“Everybody we roll out is a pitcher,” Estes said. “We don’t roll out a position player who can throw sometimes.”
Last week, the league concluded with four games in one week. Estes said that was perfect for his team, getting all of his players some innings. The Storm started Austin Greene, Hamilton, Mav Yamaguchi, and Adam Walker.
The more guys who can pitch at a quality level means less of a workload for any one individual. That, the team hopes, will be a big plus in the postseason.
“Our pitching staff definitely has a lot more confidence that we had last year,” said Hamilton said, who is 5-1 with a 1.60 ERA with 38 strikeouts in 35 innings. “That’s going to carry over into district and the playoffs.”
The Storm rarely get themselves in any trouble.
“We just haven’t walked anybody this year,” Estes said. “If you do that and play any type of defense, you should be alright.”
The Storm have walked 29 batters in 126 innings and have struck out 116.
The quality arms puts less pressure on the Skyvew bats, too.
“It’s so nice,” Maney said. “You know if you don’t have the best of games (hitting), you still have pitching. It makes it a lot easier on everybody.”
A year ago, the Storm reached the state regionals for the first time in the program’s history, but lost in the round of 16.
Can this team do even better?
Yes, but Hamilton is a little cautious. He does not want him nor his teammates to make the same mistakes they made at the beginning of the season. Hype is only good if a team can back up the hype.
“I don’t want to jinx us or anything, but we decide our own fate,” Hamilton said. “As long as we don’t think we’re too good, and we play how we should … we can win.”
“We have the ability to win state,” Maney concluded. “We definitely have the personnel. We have to play up to our expectations.”