Todd Pisarczyk came across a quote recently that was reminiscent of his King’s Way Christian baseball team.
The ending went something like this: On bad teams, no one is held accountable. On good teams, coaches hold players accountable. On great teams, players hold players accountable.
Based on that idea, Pisarczyk, the King’s Way head coach, believes the Knights have the makings of a great team.
“Even stuff like if a guy doesn’t run hard to first base, they’re in (the dugout) holding themselves accountable. The coaches don’t have to do it,” Pisarczyk said. “I think that’s what does it. It’s not us; it comes from within. It’s not the coaches that have to be like, ‘Hey, you have to do this or that.’”
King’s Way has been prone to slow starts on a few occasions this season, much like Tuesday’s Trico League doubleheader against La Center when the Wildcats took a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.
Ultimately, those were the only runs La Center scored in 14 innings. King’s Way swept the doubleheader with a 3-2 comeback in the first game and 3-0 shutout in the nightcap, taking over first place in the league race with a 13-1, 8-0 record. La Center (10-5, 6-2) is in second place.
The Knights have shown a consistent knack for grinding through the challenging moments to pull out wins. A lot of their resilience can be traced back to how they handle accountability.
“There’s no one with egos and everyone is ready to learn and play their hardest. I think it’s really easy for us to come together and just play ball,” junior Isaac Pisarczyk said.
Sophomore pitcher Makani Geisen added: “There’s definitely a family aspect of just being close and being able to … pick each other up and be honest with each other.”
A common thread in the Trico League this season is how young each team is. Interestingly, the most successful teams to this point are also among the youngest.
King’s Way graduated seven seniors from last season, six of whom were starters. More than half of La Center’s roster is underclassmen, and the Wildcats have new starters at all nine positions. Seton Catholic started the season with 10 freshmen on its varsity team.
The current league leaders jelled relatively quickly. The Knights have leadership from its junior class of captain Marcus Whitney, Isaac Pisarczyk and Andrew Peru, but countless others have stepped up when needed.
On Tuesday, they put the ball in the hands of freshman Derek Tarnoski and Geisen, and both handled the pressure of the team’s most crucial games thus far.
Geisen, who’s pitched a team-high 40 innings with a 0.52 ERA and 69 strikeouts, transferred to King’s Way Christian Schools this year from River HomeLink in Battle Ground, while also playing baseball at Prairie.
“Whole new team, I’ve known a couple of the guys through church, so being able to have those connections and then getting into baseball was just a bigger thing, because we can be real with each other outside and inside,” Geisen said. “The team chemistry is really (good) because there’s no captain age group; it’s all of us together.”
For La Center, integrating a new-look starting lineup has also come with getting acquainted to first-year head coach Hunter Weiss, a Portland native who played college baseball at Mt. Hood Community College and Missouri Western State. He was a varsity assistant coach at Franklin (Ore.) for four seasons before moving to Southwest Washington.
“I’m really big on player development and giving them a lot of input on how they want things to look,” Weiss said. “Honestly, our guys have done such a good job of taking whatever we throw at them, running with it and making it their own. They’ve really bought in, and I think that’s the key with a young squad. We don’t have the success that we’ve had this year if they don’t buy into that stuff.”
La Center and King’s Way were co-league champions in the condensed 2021 spring season, are vying for the title again this season, and likely for years to come with players who have multiple years left. They’ll play again Friday afternoon in their final regular-season meeting.
“It’s been fun watching those guys come together as well,” Todd Pisarczyk said of La Center. “They have a young group, Seton has a young group, so it’s just going to be a fun, competitive league for the next several years.”