The Puyallup Vikings and Sumner Spartans came close to winning state baseball championships in their respective classifications last season. Meanwhile, the Rogers Rams and Emerald Ridge Jaguars have built formidable programs during the past several seasons.
Here’s a look at how east Pierce County teams will fare this spring:
Head coach: Marc Wiese, 18th year
Last year: 23-5 overall, placed second at Class 4A state tourney
Key players: Brenden Illies, C/P; Ryan Harris, P; Quinn Rawson, 1B; Levi Jordan, SS; Tyler McDowell, OF/P; Gabe Ihrig, P; Darian Clemens, OF.
Puyallup has advanced to the Class 4A state championship game twice in the past four seasons. Longtime Vikings head coach Marc Wiese is proud of his teams’ ability to compete at a high level each year.
“Puyallup baseball is about hard work and dedication to be your best,” Wiese said. “Every repetition has meaning, and our practices are set up for competition and effort. Our players believe in themselves and our program, and they are bought in to what we are trying to accomplish. Whenever we set food on the field, we believe we are going to win, and our past players have created that tradition and pride. Puyallup baseball players understand how special it is to wear the ‘P’ on their hat.”
Wiese expects the Vikings to be a state contender this season.
“We want to win our sixth straight South Puget Sound League title and compete for a state title,” he said.
Head coach: Casey Adcox, third year
Last year: 18-10 overall, placed fourth at Class 2A state tourney
Key players: Chase Torgison, DH; Gage Whitehead, OF; Johnny Staley, 1B; Logan Christensen, P; Tysen Fischlin, CF; Christian Parsons, P; Luc Powers-Hubbard, 3B; Brandon Walsh, SS; Carlos Duran, DH.
Sumner head coach Casey Adcox believes this year’s team is one of the most talented teams he’s ever fielded. The Spartans, who started four sophomores and two freshman during the second half last season, have a roster brimming with potential.
“To be still so young but to have almost all sophomores and junior starters who’ve already played in the state final four is pretty valuable,” Adcox said. “These guys are quite a bit stronger physically, and all have different types of confidence about them as they move around.”
Adcox said the Spartans have set their expectations high.
“We want to compete for a league title and return to the state tournament for the fourth straight season,” he said. “The boys want to win a state championship.”
Emerald Ridge Jaguars
Head coach: Tim Spears, 13th year
Last year: 9-11 overall, advanced to district playoffs
Key players: Garrett Anderson, SS; Kort Skoda, P/OF; Kyle Rossman, P; Nathan Horne, C; Roger Merrell III, 2B.
College-bound baseball players Kort Skoda (Pacific Lutheran University) and Kyle Rossman (Lower Columbia Community College) will lead Emerald Ridge, which had an uncharacteristic losing season in 2012.
Jaguars head coach Tim Spears said he will rely heavily on Skoda and Rossman.
“They are our large weapons on the mound going into the season,” Spears said. “Kort and Kyle are two strong starters. Our defense behind them is going to be one of our strengths. We have a more athletic group than in years past.”
Spears enjoys guiding his team on the fundamentals of baseball — pitching and defense.
“We have been fortunate to have strong pitching and above-average defense over the years, which always keeps you competitive,” he said. “Winning tends to breed more winning. We have talented players who are concentrated on baseball.”
Head coach: Matt Whitehead, first year
Last year: Advanced to the Class 4A state-regional round
Key players: Hunter Nasinec, 2B; Logan Ice, C; Stefan Van Horn, P/C; Michael Sexton, 3B.
A new skipper will roam the dugout for Rogers this season. Matt Whitehead, who previously was an assistant at Graham Kapowsin, has taken over for the recently departed Brett Jaime.
The Rams possess one of the most talented rosters in the state. Michael Sexton, Stefan Van Horn and Logan Ice all competed in the prestigious Area Code baseball games last summer in Long Beach, Calif. Ice plans to play at Oregon State University next year, while Van Horn will play at Washington State and Sexton at the University of Washington.