The stage — at least at the midway point of the regular season — gets a little bigger this weekend for two high school baseball teams.
Top-ranked Class 4A program Puyallup, inside the top 30 in most national-ranking services, takes on defending 3A state champion Auburn Mountainview on Saturday in the final game of the High School Baseball Classic at Safeco Field.
The annual event, which is held over multiple weekends, is put on by the Seattle Mariners.
“We got into it seven years ago … when it started out as a Metro League thing,” Auburn Mountainview coach Glen Walker said. “It has blown up in the last seven years to including everyone from Puyallup … to the east side of Washington.”
For a high school team to play in the event, the Mariners stipulate it must sell 1,000 discounted tickets to a future M’s game.
“It’s a great fundraiser,” Puyallup coach Marc Wiese said. “And we get the opportunity to play at Safeco, sit in the dugout and warm up in the bullpen.”
The talent-loaded Vikings have been rolling along this season. They are 12-0 and in firm control of the South Puget Sound League South Division. They are ranked 27th by USA Today and 28th by MaxPreps and Perfect Game.
High expectations come with this kind of publicity, and Wiese is curious to see how this senior-dominated group handles it in its final go-round together.
Wiese said the team met a couple of weeks ago to confer about the peripheral chatter, including all the NCAA Division I coaches and professional scouts who were showing up to varsity games.
“I told them you have to cherish and dream about having those types of opportunities to play in front of guys,” Wiese said. “But it’s also trying to find some sort of balance in taking off some of the pressure. That is a tough thing.”
After being bounced out of the regional playoffs the past two seasons, the Vikings are the heavy favorites to not only get past that juncture in May, but win the 4A title.
“The core of our guys has been together for a long time — starting with the Puyallup Cardinals,” Wiese said. “They have had a lot of success through the years and won a lot of games. But we have to clear that hurdle (a 4A title). This team has a lot of goals, and they are very, very hungry.”
Saturday’s game starts at 4 p.m. Junior Brendan Illies will get his first start on the mound for the Vikings. Auburn Mountainview will counter with senior Joey Cassano. Starting pitchers are only allowed to throw for three innings.
Both coaches said every player on their rosters will see action.
STARBIRD HIGHLIGHTS WIAA HALL OF FAME CLASS
Former Lakes High School girls basketball star Kate Starbird headlines a small group of inductees into the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association Hall of Fame on May 7 in Renton.
Starbird, once the state record-holder for career points (2,753 points) for the Lancers, went on to be the Naismith player of the year at Stanford in 1997.
Starbird later played for the Seattle Reign in the American Basketball League, and in the WNBA.
Other inductees include Jim Clem (baseball coach at Dayton and Burlington-Edison), Steve Colby (basketball official), Lori Henry (soccer, basketball, track standout at Shorewood), Tom Kramer (tennis coach at South Whidbey) and David Weatherred (Spokane music instructor).
The ceremony will be held at the Renton Pavilion Event Center. Tickets are $20, and lunch will start at noon.
LOCALS GEAR UP FOR NORTHWEST SHOOTOUT
Lincoln’s Ahmaad Rorie and Todd Beamer’s Bogdan Bliznyuk (boys), and Mount Rainier’s Brittany McPhee, Beamer’s Megan Huff and W.F. West’s Nike McClure (girls) will represent the state of Washington at the 20th Northwest Shootout — the annual Washington-Oregon basketball border war — on April 26.
The game has been moved from the Chiles Center at the University of Portland to Liberty High School in Hillsboro, Ore.
The girls game starts at 4 p.m., followed by the boys game at 6. General admission tickets are $10.Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 todd.milles@ thenewstribune.com