Gateway: Sports

His coach knew he could be one of the league’s best. Now Peninsula’s King is realizing his potential

jon.manley@thenewstribune.com

Peninsula High School baseball coach Michael Johnson has seen the potential in center fielder Peter King.

If he could put it all together, Johnson figured King could be one of the best players in the Class 3A South Sound Conference.

As a junior, King is starting to realize that potential. He’s batting a team-leading .471 with two triples and a double, is tied for the team-lead in walks with six, and is leading the team with a .640 on-base percentage.

“I’m just staying quiet at the plate,” King said. “Just making sure my head isn’t moving. When you move your head, you’re changing the plane of the ball. When I’m not trying to fix everything and just staying natural, it’s always better for me.”

To Johnson, King’s fortunes at the plate are the result of working hard to improve his patience and hitting for contact.

“His approach at the plate has improved tremendously,” Johnson said. “In the past, he’s been a guy that is swinging as hard as he can, really just letting if fly. He has really dialed in his approach. He’s seeing the ball really well. It’s not just about making solid contact, but also about being on base.”

And in the outfield, Johnson said he wouldn’t trade King for anyone else in the league, given King’s speed and arm strength.

“That kid can fly,” Johnson said. “He’s got a great arm. For my money, the best arm in the league and he covers the most ground.”

Speed is a big part of King’s overall game, both defensively and on the basepaths. And while Johnson, like every good baseball coach, teaches hitting the cutoff man as a point of emphasis, King has earned some discretion with skipping the cutoff man when he sees fit.

“It’s kind of at my discretion,” King said. “I like to try to throw them out.”

Johnson knows King is aggressive with his decision making in center, so he’s emphasized throwing through the cutoff man, rather than just throwing it over the top, which led to some overthrows in the past.

“There are definitely times where he’ll sell out and try to make the throw through,” Johnson said. “What we’ve worked on with him is, a ball thrown through your cut is going to get to home plate. The ball trajectory is down, he’s not sailing balls over the third baseman’s head. So his accuracy has gotten a lot better.”

King, who also plays for Narrows Baseball Club during the offseason, wants to play at the next level and said he’s currently talking with Gonzaga, Washington State and a few other schools. In Johnson’s mind, there’s no doubt King is a next-level player.

“I think he’s right where he wants to be,” Johnson said. “It’s just about continuing to do the small things, working on approach, dialing in the swing. Right now, the way he’s seeing the baseball, I can’t imagine there’d be a college coach who wouldn’t be interested in what he’s showing them right now. … Speed wise, arm strength wise, he’s there. There’s not a better bat in the league.”

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