Last week, the University of Washington hosted school rival Washington State in a nonleague game at Husky Ballpark overlooking Lake Washington.
The Cougars came away with a 3-0 win, finishing the season with a 3-1 record over the Huskies.
But April 27 meant so much more for Cougar Tyler McDowell and Huskies Levi Jordan and Ryan Schmitten — former Puyallup High Vikings in the Pac-12 — as the three Puyallup natives have reached the current pinnacle of their baseball careers.
"It just shows you with us here — and Luke Heimlich at Oregon State — that baseball in Puyallup is pretty good," McDowell said. "To be able to play a game against my friend on the other side makes it an amazing experience."
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Baseball in Puyallup is good, but for these three Puyallup natives, baseball has been kind.
Not often do players get the chance to reach Division I baseball as there are many people out there who are just as good, if not better. As often the case, it comes down to the individual and the amount of determination they have to surpass that other talent.
Work ethic has never been a real problem for many of the Puyallup, Sumner and Bonney Lake baseball teams, as coaches have been heavily involved in developing that tough-as-nails attitude that becomes enthused with heavy work.
"I’ve always worked hard, but when I came here, I saw that the entire team is filled with guys who have my work ethic," Jordan said. "It was intimidating at first, but coach (Marc) Wiese really prepared us for college … it took time to adjust but it wasn’t too hard."
Adjustments or not, Jordan’s work in the field has left him as the premier freshman middle infielder for the Pac-12. Coming into this week, Jordan has one error in 160 chances, leading all Pac-12 infielders with a .993 fielding percentage.
"To see a friend of mine do well makes me happy for him," McDowell said. "But it does feel good for my team to take the season series against his in year one … there’s a little bragging right there."
Even though both McDowell and Jordan were on both the Cougar and Husky benches, respectively, during the April 27 matchup, it didn’t take away the competitiveness of the two as they closed out their first season facing one another.
"We just didn’t play well against (WSU) on Monday," Jordan said. "You always want to beat your team’s rival, and we didn’t do that. It’s given me motivation for next year."
Effort’s now there
Husky starter Ryan Schmitten has always had natural talent for a pitcher. When he pitched for Puyallup, Schmitten admits that he was a man alone on the mound: An attitude very different for a former Viking.
"With Puyallup, I went out and did my thing — I put in effort, but not as much effort as I do now," Schmitten admitted.
Whatever effort Schmitten put in while pitching for the Vikings was enough for him to win the Class 4A SPSL most valuable player award and all-state honors back in 2011.
But for the junior to have success in the Pac-12, Schmitten knew he had to do more than just go about his business. He has to grind it out and put everything he’s learned over the years to task.
"To me, it was about the toughness aspect," Schmitten said. "It prepared me to be more aggressive on the mound."
Schmitten was the April 27 starter for UW, and even though he was the losing pitcher of record, the Husky junior had a career day.
Playing WSU must have given him extra motivation because in six innings of work, Schmitten set a career high in strikeouts (seven) while only giving up two runs on three hits.
"I’m not a big fan of WSU in general," Schmitten said. "I always wanted to come to UW, so I never liked the Cougars … I competed more that game than I have this season."
Even though these three players have spent much of their young lives playing with each other — McDowell and Jordan won a 4A state title last year with Puyallup — times have changed.
No matter what success they have in the future, it’s about beating the other and earning a lifetime of bragging rights.
"We’re still friends off the field, but once we’re here, we want to beat the other," McDowell said.