Hazen, Liberty usher in new era with coaching changes

April 9, 2009

By Jim Feehan

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Both squads are expected to be a challenge in league

Anthony Pina, of Hazen, rounds second base and heads to third in a state playoff game last year against Issaquah at Bannerwood Park. By Greg Farrar

Anthony Pina, of Hazen, rounds second base and heads to third in a state playoff game last year against Issaquah at Bannerwood Park. By Greg Farrar

Hazen and Liberty high schools welcome new head baseball coaches this season as both the Highlanders and Patriots look to go deep in the playoffs this year.

Gary Jacobs replaces longtime Hazen baseball coach Chris Chiechi. Steve Darnell begins his first year at the helm of the Patriots’ program, replacing Scott Colby. 

Last season, Hazen was 12-2 in the Seamount League and 13-7 overall, while Liberty was 9-7 in the KingCo 3A, 13-10 overall.  

Highlanders balanced, seasoned with playoff experience 

The 2009 Hazen baseball team has all but three players returning to the program from the 2008 state playoff roster. 

The Highlanders lost first baseman Ryan Anderson, left-handed pitcher C.J. Waite and right-handed pitcher Nathan Bunch to graduation. Bunch was the league MVP last year and is now in the starting rotation as a freshman at Brigham Young University.

This year, senior captains Kevin Schwab, Justin Jacobs and Kyle Nation will lead Hazen. 

These young men are on a mission to return to the playoffs and understand the level they need to play at to compete, Gary Jacobs said.

Senior Bo Worgan (3-1 in 2008) will anchor the pitching staff that includes seniors Justin Jacobs (3-1 in 2008), Derek Cline (1-0 in 2008) and Chase Gordon.  

Juniors Nick Sharp (1-0 in 2008), Chadd Garton, Kyle Thomas and Austin Menges will also play key roles this year. The Highlanders have two standout sophomores — Jeff Beckman and David Green —who will definitely contribute this year on defense and offense, Gary Jacobs said.

“This whole group loves to compete,” he said. “They each worked hard in the off-season and are clearly bigger, stronger and faster than last year.” 

Garton is a key newcomer to the team. The former Skyline High School student is an impact player who has earned a spot in the starting rotation. He will play in the outfield when he’s not pitching, Gary Jacobs said.

Kyle Nation (second-team all-league catcher in 2008) and returning starters Kevin Schwab, honorable mention shortstop lead, anchor the infield. Other infielders include junior Brendan Campbell, second-team all-league third baseman in 2008, and junior second baseman John Wall.

Justin Jacobs, Gordon and Green will rotate at first base when not pitching.

Returning speedsters and batters Anthony Pina, Nick Sharp and Derek Cline will patrol the outfield along with Garton and Worgan.

The teams to beat in the Seamount League this year are:  Mount Rainier, Highline, Kennedy and Lindbergh, Gary Jacobs said.    

“The Hazen offense is solid and has a great blend of speed, power and ability to hit for average,” he said. “I believe we are capable of playing quality baseball and competing for a playoff berth again this year.”

Patriots look powerful

With Skyline, Issaquah and Newport moving up to 4A KingCo, Liberty should be one of the dominant teams in 3A/2A KingCo, although new head coach Steve Darnell maintains it won’t be that easy. 

Bellevue has an experienced pitching staff returning along with some talented starters, and Mount Si has its two top pitchers back. Juanita, which moved down from 4A KingCo, has some strong pitchers, too.

“Pitching in our league will definitely be a premium,” said Darnell, who served as an assistant coach for the Patriots the past six years.

“Even with Newport, Issaquah and Skyline leaving, this league is always going to be tough,” he said. “I think the championship and playoff spots will go down to the last week of the season.”

Liberty sees the return of one of the league’s top pitchers in John McLeod, who compiled a 4-1 mark last spring. In addition, the Patriots have Eric Peterson and Troy Colyer, talented infielders who will take a turn on the mound at times. 

Peterson was Liberty’s closer last spring and led 3A KingCo with three saves. Keegan Bennett, who was injured last season, Dan Eck and Connor Sjolander are other key pitchers the Patriots are depending on this season.

Peterson, a versatile player, will play shortstop and possibly first base. He earned all-league honors last spring and has signed a national letter of intent to play for the University of Washington.

“He is a tremendous athlete. He will be the center of our offense and defense,” Darnell said.

Colyer returns at second base and will move to shortstop when Peterson pitches.

“He is one of the best infielders in the state. His glove is incredible,” Darnell said.

Third baseman Nick Hart is also returning. Kyle Arbaugh and Peter Wiggum are other versatile infielders for the Patriots.

Bennett, who will play center when not pitching, right fielder Eric Etter and Troy Askins, a left fielder, will likely be the starting outfield.


Hazen schedule

All games are at 3:30 p.m.,     unless otherwise noted.

April 14 — at Highline (7 p.m.)

April 16 — Tyee 

April 22 — Renton 

April 24 — at Evergreen

April 25 — at Tyee

April 27 — Mount Rainier 

April 29 — at Kennedy

May 1 — Lindbergh 


Liberty schedule

All games are at 4 p.m.

April 7 — at Sammamish

April 9 — Sammamish

April 13 — Interlake

April 15 — at Interlake

April 17 — Mercer Island

April 20 — at Mercer Island

April 22 — Juanita

April 24 — at Bellevue

April 27 — at Mount Si

May 1 — at Sammamish

May 4 — Interlake

May 8 — Mercer Island

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