Three shutouts in four games — Northwest baseball has left its mark.
There’s no better way to make a statement about a prep baseball team from the Northwest than what the Puyallup High Vikings did over the weekend at the USA Baseball National High School Invitational in Cary, North Carolina. The Vikings finished 3-1 during the four-day tournament with all three wins coming via the shutout.
That’s the biggest statement any team could make on the national stage.
“What I’m proud of is that the guys were able to pick up two wins after dropping one to Huntington Beach (Calif.)” Puyallup coach Marc Wiese said. “For all our wins to be shutouts, that says a lot about our pitching staff … it says a lot about high school baseball in Washington and that baseball in the Northwest is pretty dang good.”
Over the course of the tournament, Puyallup outscored its opponents 20-6, not only because the pitching was solid, but the defense was just picking it right. The Vikings opened the tournament with a 3-0 win over Leesville Road (N.C), then suffered a 6-0 loss to Huntington Beach, then rebounded with a 12-0 win over Loyalsock (Penn.) before closing with a 5-0 win over Trinity Prep (Fla.).
The middle of the Puyallup defense did it all and then some at the tournament, and no players stood out more than center fielder Owen Breithaupt and catcher Brendan Illies.
“Our defense was just moving around and making plays — it was something to watch,” Wiese said. “Owen was incredible in center, flying around out there taking away hits.”
As good as the defense was, the pitching was better.
Illies didn’t have the offensive output some wanted to see from the area’s top recruit. He finished the tournament 1 for 12 at the plate, with his only hit a two-RBI double.
On the outside, the box score looks poor in Illies’ favor, but that only tells part of the picture about what the captain did at the plate.
“The box score doesn’t tell how well Brendan hit the ball out here,” Wiese said. “He hit the ball hard but he just happened to hit right at someone or they were able to make a play.”
Even though his offense was on ice, Illies was hot in the field as his leadership behind the plate proved invaluable for the Vikings’ pitching staff.
As the best defensive catcher in the state and one of the better high school pitch framers, Illies’ ability to command Puyallup’s staff on a national stage just might have moved him into one of the better defensive catching recruits in the country.
It’s the statement Illies knew he could make when he dedicated himself completely to baseball back in August.
“Illies really took charge of this staff and the team out here,” Wiese said. “He handles himself behind the plate, brings confidence to whoever is pitching that day … his leadership is outstanding.”