Colton Steepy and Daniel Furman started playing baseball together at age 6. When the two were in eighth grade, Steepy moved into Furman’s Lacey neighborhood and their bond grew closer.
“Daniel will be my best friend for life,” Steepy said.
The connection the two Timberline High School seniors, who have both earned all-South Sound Conference league honors this season, won’t be ending anytime soon. Both have signed to play at NWAC powerhouse Lower Columbia College next season.
But first comes a final competition many thought was beyond the Blazers’ grasp after the first third of the 2019 season: the Class 3A state tournament. Timberline travels to Yakima to meet Mt. Spokane at 10 a.m. at County Stadium. It’s the Blazers fourth state appearance in five years.
A win would send the Blazers into a 4 p.m. quarterfinal against either Lake Washington or Kamiakan. A loss would end their season. Capital will also play Saturday, opening the tournament at 1 p.m. against Mercer Island at Bannerwood Park in Bellevue.
Timberline coach Mark Rubadue points to the combined “baseball IQ” of Furman and Steepy, along with the presence of fellow seniors Caleb Baker, Devin Carter, Kameron Richards, Joseph Appleby and Cole Pearson, for a remarkable comeback from early season adversity.
To start the SSC season, the Blazers faced a double whammy.
Four of their first six games were against the league’s top two teams, Gig Harbor and Peninsula.
Then, in the league opener on the road at Gig Harbor, Furman, one of Timberline’s top two starting pitchers, strained an oblique muscle striking out a Tides’ batter. Injuries to Richards, Appleby and Sam Whitt followed.
“Daniel probably got hurt because he throws so hard,” Rubadue said. “He gets the most out of his ability. He’s only 5-8 but he throws it pretty firmly. I’m 5-9 and I can’t come close to throwing as hard as he does.”
Timberline fell to 1-6.
“It was unbelievable, but we slowly got healthy,” Rubadue said.
“Nobody thought we’d make districts,” Steepy said. “We used that for motivation to practice harder and keep pushing.”
While he rehabbed his injury, Furman, who plays centerfield on the days he doesn’t pitch, kept history in mind.
“Ever since I’ve been at Timberline, we’ve been known to be a second half team,” he said. “We knew we weren’t out of it.”
In mid-April, that late season magic kicked in. A 5-1 win over Shelton was followed with sweeps of rivals Capital and North Thurston. A 10-0 rout of Yelm provided a six-game winning streak that vaulted the Blazers into the West Central/Southwest Bi-District tournament as the No. 3 seed out of the SSC.
“This year’s team has been a lot different than the last two years,” said Steepy, pointing to the Blazers’ positive chemistry as a factor in the comeback. “Everyone likes each other and plays together.”
On the rare occasions a Blazer loses focus, Furman, who is 3-1 on the mound and his batting .462, is there to bring them around.
“His competition level is unreal,” Steepy said. “He does not like to lose. He’s one of those guys who thinks if you’re not first, you’re last. He’s all about the team, not individual accomplishments.”
Said Furman, “We like to have fun as a team but if I see guys goofing around, I’ll get on them. But our seven seniors have been playing together since freshman year. We know how to get better in every way.”
Steepy is hitting .469, fueled, Furman says, by speed.
“Colton’s the fastest guy I’ve ever seen running the bases and his quickness with the bat in his hands is amazing,” he said
At districts, Timberline beat Kelso and Wilson to clinch a state berth, but then lost to Mountain View, dropping the Blazers into the third place game, where they beat Capital, 14-3.
“We were all bummed out when we got beat, but beating one of our closest rivals in any sport, 14-3, gives us some momentum going into state,” said Steepy.
Rubadue sees the game with Mt. Spokane was one of his team’s depth against some star power for the Wildcats, who have four college-bound players highlighted by 6-foot-4 left-handed pitcher and first baseman Stu Flesland, bound for Boise State.
“We don’t have ‘that guy,’” he said. “But, overall, we’re pretty athletic. We’ve had a great run of good players coming through Timberline over the past 10-12 years. If you come here, you know we’re going to have a good team.”