BASEBALL: Everything has come together for Beamer ace Matt Bower

As a sophomore, nobody was going to confuse Matt Bower and Randy Johnson.

Let’s just say Bower, a lanky senior left-hander for the state tournament-bound Todd Beamer Titan baseball team, wasn’t exactly making his catcher put any extra padding in his glove back then.

“I remember we were playing a game at Rogers when Matt was a sophomore and he was maybe throwing 65 mph,” longtime Beamer pitching coach Justin Mentink said with a smile. “And I might be stretching it at 65.”

Fast forward two years and the 6-foot-5 Bower has developed into one of the most dominant pitchers in Washington and was a huge part in allowing Beamer to qualify for its first-ever Class 4A State Baseball Tournament. The Titans open the 16-team tournament against Jackson at 10 a.m. at Heidelberg Park in Tacoma on Saturday. Bower will start on the mound for the Titans, according to head coach Jerry Peterson.

Bower is 5-2 on the season with a minuscule 0.57 earned-run average and throwing in the high-80s with a nasty curveball. In his 49 1/3 innings pitched during the 2012 season, Bower has given up just 27 hits, struck out 69 hitters and walked just 17. He has thrown four complete games, including a seven-inning no-hitter with 15 strikeouts during a 6-0 win over Curtis on April 20.

In his last four starts, which have all come during Beamer’s push toward state, Bower is 4-0 with four complete games and allowed only two earned runs, which both came in a 10-2 over Emerald Ridge.

“He keeps us in games,” Peterson said. “When we can get him a lead, it really changes the complexion of the game. Matt always gets us off to a good start, but getting an early lead is really important for us.”

“Everything has just come together for us,” Bower said. “The team has been hitting since midway through the season. We really didn’t hit at the start and didn’t know how to play together as a team.”

Everything has come together for Bower as well. After signing a national letter of intent in a public ceremony at Beamer to play next year at the University of Washington, the Huskies dropped Bower’s scholarship offer for an undisclosed reason.

That’s where Mentink entered the recruiting picture. After Washington dropped Bower, Mentink contacted Washington State head coach Donnie Marbut. Mentink, a Decatur grad, played baseball for the Cougars in the 1990s and was a former roommate of Marbut.

“Things changed and I’m going to Wazzu now,” Bower said. “It just didn’t’ work out at Washington.”

In a very quick recruitment, Marbut called Bower on a Wednesday and that weekend he took a visit to the Pullman campus and fell in love with the school and program.

“I really like the town,” Bower said. “It’s a nice area that is kind of secluded. It’s a place where I can push myself.”

Marbut has recruited several players from Federal Way over the years, including former Beamer players Matt Hart and Carsten Bocchi. The current roster includes Federal Way’s Nick Tanielu and Jefferson grad Mitch McQueen.

The Cougars are currently 24-24 on the season and 9-15 in the rugged Pac-12 Conference.

“I don’t think that he’s sniffed his ceiling,” Mentink said. “He is just going to get better.”

To illustrate the improvement just in the last year, all you have to do is look at Bower’s stats from his junior season at Beamer. The left-hander finished just 4-4 with a 3.90 ERA last year, striking out 46. Bower was a second-team, All-SPSL South Division selection.

“I have just matured a lot this year,” Bower said. “This year, I kind of started getting in the weight room a little bit.”

The rest of the Beamer team has also matured during the 2012 season. The Titans went through a stretch during the middle of the year where they lost four of five SPSL South games and seemed destined to underachieve. But after a 13-1 blowout at the hands of Puyallup, Beamer eight of nine to qualify for the state tournament.

“Our goal was to get to state and just to play hard,” Bower said. “But overall, our goal is to win state. If everyone plays hard and we keep coming together, we can do it.”

The difference during the end-of-season run was the Titans’ offense, which was pretty stagnant early in the year.

The Titans’ offense has been led by Richie Apigo, Lawyer Braun and Sam Kosbab all season. The trio are the only Beamer players hitting over .300 with double-digit RBIs on the season. Braun is hitting .385 with 10 RBIs and has 10 runs, four doubles and three triples. Apigo is hitting .380 with 13 runs, 10 RBIs and a triple and Kosbab is leading the Titans’ with a .393 average with 14 RBIs, six doubles and a home run.

“It’s been a lot of fun,” Peterson said.

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