Michael Spellacy came to Puyallup High School to win a state championship.
Spellacy remembered sitting in the bleachers, observing Puyallup and its coach, Marc Wiese, warm up after his Battle Ground baseball team had played a district semifinal game in his freshman year, when the Vikings would go won to win the 4A state title. Spellacy remembers noticing an unrivaled intensity and focus.
His father occasionally would watch Puyallup games when he’d travel from Battle Ground to his job in Sumner. Two years later his parents were looking for a place in the area to rent — closer to the job — while their house was being built, and they did some homework on the local baseball programs.
“It’s my last two years of high school baseball — what do I want to get out of it?” said Spellacy, who had committed to Gonzaga University as a sophomore. “And what I wanted out of it was a state championship.”
With Spellacy, that could become a reality for Puyallup this weekend at Safeco Field in Seattle.
For his all-around production at the plate, on the bases, at shortstop and on the mound, Spellacy was selected as The News Tribune’s 2017 All-Area baseball player of the year. He has a 1.40 ERA in 45 innings pitched, with 47 strikeouts, no errors at shortstop and a team-best 10 stolen bases. He’s batting .269 (21 for 78) as the Vikings’ leadoff hitter with four doubles and three triples.
But it was finishing short of that state hardware last year that has driven Spellacy.
Puyallup was stunned in a first-round loss to Cascade of Everett. Then Spellacy was invited to play among the top prospects in the Northwest for the Area Code games in the summer, but he said he struggled during the three-day showcase in California.
So Spellacy went to work. He went from weighing 175 pounds to entering this season at 205 pounds, working out three times a week with the team and three times a week on his own. He stuck to a diet of breakfast smoothies, chicken and rice lunches, protein shakes and two or three plates of his mother’s cooking for dinner.
He had daily stretching routines and changed his swing to draw more power. He has seven extra-base hits this year after three last year.
It’s just a fabric of his competitiveness. His father, Mike, was a soccer player at Fife, and he and his son learned the game of baseball together. Michael grew to love baseball while playing catch with his mom in the backyard, but he also played soccer, three years of high school tennis and two years of football.
In the sixth grade, he described in a classroom assignment his future goals — one was to play baseball at Gonzaga University (because he liked the basketball team) and the other was to play professional baseball.
Wiese said Spellacy is one of the five best players he’s coached in his 21 seasons, which include 425 wins. He most reminds Wiese of himself.
“I know that in PE when he’s playing pickleball or playing basketball that he’s going to be competitive,” Wiese said. “He’s got a little bit of a short fuse and he doesn’t like to lose.
“And for me, my best friend and I growing up, we used to fist fight. Was that the right thing? No. But we were so competitive. And Michael is just a tenacious competitor. He doesn’t like to not do well. That bugs him and eats him alive, and it’s something he will have to work on a little bit to flush with each at-bat and each pitch.”
One of Spellacy’s best friends, Puyallup second baseman Gavin Grant, said he has never seen anyone as competitive as Spellacy … until he remembered.
“Except for Wiese,” said Grant, an Oregon State commit. “Those are the two most competitive people I’ve seen.”
Spellacy is prone to exchange words with opposing hitters while on the mound. He’s never intimidated, said catcher Ryan Teague.
“Heck, no,” Teague said.
“On the mound you can see it: He’s a dog out there. On the field he’s a dog and at the plate he’s a dog. Any position he’s just competing. And he’s not afraid to get out there and let them know he’s out there.”
Spellacy has come to almost embody the top-ranked Puyallup (23-2) baseball program — which has won 10 consecutive league titles, has 10 consecutive state tournament appearances (the longest active streak in the state), and is riding into the state semifinals with a 23-game winning streak. The Vikings face Skyview at 10 a.m. Friday.
But with the intensity with which the Vikings play, they tend to not make friends along the way.
“We like that adversity,” Teague said. “Wiese has always been saying that it’s us against the state. The whole state hates us, the whole league hates us. I mean, we take that pressure, put a chip on our shoulder and take it into the game and beat the crap out of anyone in our way. And so far that’s been working.
“We compete like no other.”
And Spellacy’s competitiveness can rub others the wrong way, too.
It did with Grant, at first. Spellacy came into the program a week before the season started last year and overtook Grant’s starting spot at shortstop.
“He came in and I was like, ‘Gosh, man,’ ” Grant said. “But then he started to grow on me. It was early in the season and people still thought he was kind of a jerk. But I always thought he was a really good guy. He kind of became a big brother to me.
“He’s got kind of a shell you have to break through, and he’s a great guy underneath. It’s just his competitiveness comes out of him maybe a little too much for people. But that’s what fires him up and that’s what fuels him and fuels the team.”
Spellacy has a 3.9 GPA, but he said at school he’s quiet and keeps to himself. It’s on a baseball field where he’s most comfortable.
His teammates rushed behind him during an interview, chanting, “MVP, MVP, MVP.”
“I think people see me around school and I’m quiet and doing my own thing. I think they see that and go, ‘Oh, this guy only cares about himself,’ ” Spellacy said. “But I want the guy next to me to be just as good. I want to push him and I want him to push me.”
“I want to create a culture of greatness at Puyallup High School and wherever I go. I don’t want it to just be me, because me doesn’t win a championship. It takes a team to win a championship. That’s why this year we are going to get it done, is because I know that the guy to my left and the guy to my right care about me and I care about them just as much — and we are going to get that state championship.”