Sports

BASEBALL PREVIEW: Decatur hoping for a return to state tournament; Beamer also loaded

Baseball at the four high schools around Federal Way is the best it’s been in a long time this season. The rosters at Decatur, Federal Way, Beamer and Jefferson feature some of the best individual talent in the area and playoff berths for all four aren’t out of the question.

Leading the list might be the Decatur Gators, who qualified for the Class 3A State Baseball Tournament for the first time since 1989 a season ago. Third-year head coach Korey Sites returns most of the starting lineup from 2013 and the Gators might have one of the best pitching staffs in the state, led by Chris Carns, Janson Junk and transfer Jake Kolterman.

Carns and Junk have both already inked their national letters of intent to pitch in the fall at Seattle University.

Carns finished 7-3 with a 3.00 earned-run average and threw four complete games last season. He threw a complete-game shutout during a 2-0 win over Mountainview at the West Central District Tournament. Carns also struck out 73 hitters in 58 1/3 innings and allowed only 47 hits all season. He also hit .262 with 22 RBIs, 20 runs and two home runs at the plate.

Junk was 4-3 for the state-bound Gators with an impressive 2.77 ERA, with two of those losses coming to state champion Auburn Mountainview. The right-hander threw three complete games and 53 innings. He was a second-team, All-SPSL 3A selection and struck out 47. Junk also hit .308 with six RBIs and six runs at the plate.

But Kolterman might be the best of the bunch. At Hazen High School last season, Kolterman was named first-team, All-State after a 5-1 record despite playing his junior season with a torn labrum and broken bone in his non-throwing left arm.

“This years team boasts an incredible amount of pitching depth,” Sites said. “We have three frontline starters in Carns, Junk and Kolterman and three other quality pitchers behind them waiting for an opportunity.”

The Gators’ offense should also be pretty potent this season. Sites brings back all-league players in second baseman Brandon Zimmerman and shortstop Isaiah Hatch. Zimmerman finished with a .367 batting average and scored 23 runs with 15 RBIs. He also had eight doubles and two home runs.

As a sophomore last season, Hatch hit .374 with 24 RBIs, five doubles, two triples and 23 runs. Hatch also finished with three home runs, including two during Decatur’s heart-breaking defeat in the state quarterfinals to Auburn Mountainview, 9-8.

“Our returning players state playoff experience should also help when playing in crucial, high pressure moments,” Sites said.

The Todd Beamer Titans also have a pair of Division-I commits on their roster and return plenty of talent from a team that finished 14-9 overall.

The Titans are led by senior Scott Sunitsch and junior Taylor Davis. Sunitsch has already signed to play at Washington State in the fall and Davis has given a verbal commitment to Seattle University.

Last season, Sunitsch hit .362 with 15 RBIs, 12 runs, three doubles and two home runs and was 2-3 in seven starts with a 4.24 ERA on the mound. He struck out 42 in 34 2/3 innings pitched.

As a sophomore, Davis finished the year 5-1 with a 1.62 earned-run average on the mound. He threw four complete-games and three complete-game shutouts. One of those was a 2-0 no-hitter over Curtis. Davis also hit .319 with 11 RBIs, 10 runs, four doubles and one triple at the plate as a shortstop.

“If our pitching staff stays healthy and we play good defense, we should be a playoff team,” longtime head coach Jerry Peterson said.

Also back for the Titans are second baseman Ben Arata, center fielder Lawyer Braun and catcher Kepa Sharpe.

Last year, as a sophomore, Arata hit .423 with a team-best 18 RBIs. He also scored 15 runs and struck out only once during the season in 83 plate appearances.

As a leadoff hitter, Brauan hit .395 with a team-leading 20 runs, 13 doubles and 18 stolen bases. He also finished with 13 RBIs and two triples.

Sharpe led the Titans a season ago with a .456 batting average and also had 17 RBIs, five doubles, 11 runs and one home run.

The future looks super bright for the Federal Way Eagles and head coach Danny Graham. The Eagles feature a very strong group of underclassmen and started the season with a pair of impressive non-league wins over Enumclaw and Decatur. Leading the list are freshmen Gabe Togia, sophomores Ben Koler, Eduardo Peraza and Christian Jones.

Things are also looking up at Jefferson.

The Raiders have started the season with a perfect 3-0 record with wins over Pasco, Lindbergh and Auburn after finishing 9-11 a season ago.

Head coach Joseph Townsend brings back a strong group of seniors in Niko DeLaCruz, T.J. Byrne, Gunnar Schubert and Caleb Wallen.

Byrne, a center fielder, hit .362 last year with 17 runs, nine RBIs and one home run and DeLaCruz, a shortstop/pitcher, led the team with 15 RBIs and five doubles. He was also 4-3 on the mound with a 3.41 earned-run average. Wallen finished 2-1 with an impressive 2.59 ERA.

Also helping will be junior Michael Ziccarelli (outfield), sophomores David Jaquish (C/P) and Garrett Shubert (1B/P), along with freshman Mason DeLaCruz (2B/P).

“The team will be successful if they play for one another,” Townsend said. “They have great team chemistry, but the true test will be how they hold together when the times get tough.”

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