Last year, Redmond teetered on the brink of elimination throughout the playoffs, winning three consecutive loser-out games to reach the Class 4A state baseball playoffs for the first time since 2000.
This time around, the Mustangs decided to make it easy on themselves.
After dominating the regular season with an 18-2 mark, the second-ranked Mustangs handled Lake Washington 8-3 on Tuesday to reach the state tournament in back-to-back years for the first time since 1990-91.
“It’s just a different team and we are in a different spot,” head coach Dan Pudwill said. “Last year we had to claw through and win a game, lose a game, win a game, lose a game, and this year we have been in the driver’s seat. We’ve put ourselves in good position.”
Redmond played in the 4A Kingco title game against Bothell on Thursday, after the Reporter’s deadline. But win or lose, Redmond is heading to state, where it hopes to follow the lead of the 1991 teams, which captured a state championship. Redmond also won the state championship in 1993.
The Mustangs play their state opener next Saturday against an opponent to be determined.
This year’s team has similar aspirations. When the first state baseball poll came out on March 31, Redmond was ranked as the top team in Class 4A. Redmond ended the season ranked No. 2 behind defending state champions Richland (19-1), thanks in large part to the Mustangs’ potent offense. Redmond scored a Kingco-best 165 runs, with only two other teams scoring more than 125.
But Redmond’s pitching may have been the biggest surprise. Redmond allowed just 72 runs, only three behind Juanita for the league lead. The staff has been led by ace Matt Burrows, who improved to 8-0 in a complete-game playoff victory against the Kangaroos on Tuesday.
Ironically, Burrows said he was strongly considering not even playing this season since he wasn’t going to play baseball in college, but he was happy he stuck with playing this spring.
“I didn’t even think I was going to play baseball this year,” Burrows said. “And getting this far, and carrying a team, and all the guys contribute.
“We’re going to state,” he finished with a grin from ear-to-ear.
A major reason the Mustangs are heading to state is due to Evan Braicks’ 3-for-3 performance, which included a double and three runs-batted-in, on Tuesday. The senior catcher said the team’s success can be attributed to the players’ team-first attitude.
“I think we are just loose and we all know our role and well get it done,” Braicks said. “We don’t have to tell others what to do. We all just know our role on the team.”
Pudwill agreed, saying that the off-the-field chemistry is leading to on-the-field results.
“It’s camaraderie and chemistry,” Pudwill responded as to what makes this team special. “They don’t get too high they don’t get too low, and they really enjoy playing baseball with one another. There’s no egos. That doesn’t get in the way. Nobody’s pouting. It’s a certain togetherness that’s very rare.”
Now Redmond can draw on the experience it gained last year, when it destroyed North Kitsap 16-2 in the first round of the state playoffs before losing to eventual state runnerup Snohomish, 6-2. Players like Tim Wilson, Marcus Flynn, Trase Pickering were starters on last year’s team, with others like Justin Kopak, Zach Doleac, Landon Morris and Braicks all seeing time at state last year.
“It was tough playing all the playoff games (last year) and then get to state,” Pudwill said. “But that did so much for us this year. To taste that and see what that’s like and see what that feels like. It really has prepared us, and who knows. When you step between the lines for that first state game, anything can happen. But certainly mentally we are prepared.”