Coming off yet another strong season and armed with a fleet of all-league performers, the White River High baseball team should have some lofty ambitions.
Veteran coach Mike Williams surely sets that tone. In and emailed preview to the coming season, he wrote, “Our goals this year are to win the league title, win the subdistrictic title, win the district title and win the state title. Period.”
With proven talent scattered all around the diamond, Williams figures this is the season his club gets over the playoff hump. The Hornets have won the South Puget Sound League 2A title the past two years and during the past three seasons have been involved in six winner-to-state games – only to fall short each time. Last year’s crew went 12-2 in league and won a subdistrict championship, earning two chances to advance to the state tourney; those opportunities resulted in losses to Kingston and North Kitsap.
But it’s a new year and Williams can trot out a roster that includes Cole Johnson, one of the best players to ever don a Hornet jersey, according to the coach. Johnson is dangerous both as a left-handed pitcher and at first base, having collected first-team all-league honors the past two seasons. Last year he went 9-2 on the mound and registered 92 strikeouts, one of the highest totals in the state. Offensively, he hit a stellar .380, which drew the attention of the coaching staff at Washington State University; he was an early signee, agreeing last fall to play for the Cougars beginning in 2014.
Anchoring the infield is shortstop Tanner Williams, who was named to the all-state team following an all-league campaign in which he hit .392, drove in 20 runs and stole 13 bases. Additionally, he picked up two victories on the hill.
Ryan Bird contributes in many ways and was honored last year with a second all-league selection. Splitting time playing first base and pitching, he hit .316, knocked in 26 runs, went 4-2 and is one of the Hornets’ top left-handed power hitters in recent memory.
Zak Rohrbach contributed last season as a right-handed pitcher/third baseman who hit .344 to make the all-league first team. Second baseman Zach Howard was another Hornet selection to the all-SPSL 2A first team, along with outfielder Garrett Robertson. Other key returnees include Zach McMillen behind the plate and outfielder Matt Salisbury, both second-team picks a season ago, and Dustin France, an honorable mention outfielder.
One of Williams’ jobs will be finding a place and time for everyone to play. He didn’t lose a player to graduation last spring and indicates he has “some really good kids” moving up from the junior varsity ranks to fill out the varsity roster.