Storm look to have some fun while trying to save their season this week
VANCOUVER — The coaches pushed them throughout the regular season.
An extra 10 minutes here. An extra 20 minutes another day. Or 40 minutes.
Perfect the drill.
Now in the postseason, this is the time to have some fun. That is the theory, anyway.
That is the Skyview baseball way. It is what helped the Storm get to the state final four a year ago.
They are not having too much fun today, though. The Storm opened the 2018 postseason by losing a late four-run lead Wednesday night in the Class 4A bi-district tournament at Propstra Stadium. Todd Beamer of Federal Way scored three runs in the sixth, one in the seventh, then got the 5-4 victory in extra innings to clinch a berth to state.
Skyview will turn around and play again Wednesday, in a loser-out game against Sumner. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m. at Art Wright Field in Kent. Should Skyview win this one, the Storm will have two games Saturday and would need to win one to make it to state.
The Storm hope to fall back on all the work they put in that pushed them to another Class 4A Greater St. Helens League championship. They understand what it is like to bounce back from a tough loss in this tournament – they did this last year, too, and still finished third in state.
They are ready for this challenge.
“A lot of times, the practices can be harder and more intense than the games,” senior Michael Lundgren said. “We want to make ourselves uncomfortable in practice so when we get in games we just rely on our training. We just do it. Big players make big plays.”
Those practices have become somewhat legendary at Skyview.
“There are definitely times when you’re like, ‘C’mon,’” senior Daniel Copeland acknowledged. “But then you know why it’s happening. You’re happy with the product you get from it. Some days we have 40 extra minutes. We have to nail down everything perfect. In the long run, it pays off for us. The way we practice prepares us for games like no other.”
Naturally, all the Storm want to go on a long playoff run and win a state championship. Coach Seth Johnson knows, however, that the journey in itself is part of the prize. His philosophy is to push his players throughout the regular season and then let them enjoy that process in the postseason. The playoffs, he said, are hard enough. The players do not need him to be overbearing.
“I’m hard on them all year,” Johnson said. “Now, I step off the gas. We’re playing with house money now no matter what. As a coach, you relax and let them have some fun.”
That is not to say the Storm are satisfied with just the league title.
“First place or nothing,” Lundgren says of the team’s goal for the playoffs.
At the same time, their coach understands just how tough it is to win it all. Johnson noted the great program of Puyallup, always one of the best teams in the state for the past 15 years now. Puyallup has won it all two times. Skyview has the 2013 championship and then another final four appearance last year.
“You’ve got to become a team of destiny,” Johnson said. “You’ve got to get hot at the right time. Obviously you have to be talented and prepared, as well.”
The Storm have those ingredients.
Copeland was the unanimous pick for 4A GSHL player of the year. In fact, there were no other nominees, Johnson said. Copeland led the league in hitting, has tied the school record for most doubles, and is second in total hits. Oh yeah, he also is the team’s top pitcher, the ace.
“I think he’s a two-way guy at the next level, too,” Johnson said of Copeland, who has signed with Gonzaga University.
“It definitely feels a little bit surreal,” Copeland said. “Just an awesome honor to win an award like that. It’s a very humbling experience.”
The Storm went 11-1 in 4A GSHL play, and the all-league accolades acknowledged that fact. The team had the player of the year, four first-teamers, and five second-teamers. Yes, 10 players were recognized.
“First team or second team at every position,” Johnson noted.
Not bad for a team that finished third in state in 2017 but then lost most of its pitching to graduation. Copeland returned, but four of the top five arms moved on from high school.
“That was the question mark,” Johnson said of the 2018 pitching staff.
Cooper Barnum, Alex Miller, and Max Rose answered that question, though, with quality stuff day after day.
“Losing guys like we did, it was tough,” Copeland noted. “We also knew we were returning six guys as starters. We were still pretty confident. And Cooper, Miller, and Max have been huge for us.”
“We knew we lost a few dudes. But we know everyone on the field can get the job done,” Lundgren said. “Personally, I didn’t have any doubts coming in to the season.”
They still have no doubts they can make another run at the final four.
“We have a lot of unfinished business to take care of,” Copeland said. “None of our are happy with how it ended last year. We’re definitely still hungry. We have a lot to prove still.”
To get a chance to do that at state, the Storm will have to win Wednesday and then get another win on Saturday.
Johnson wants to remind them of a couple things:
They have prepared for this all season.
Oh, and it is time to have some fun.