Wednesday was a pretty good day for Brock Jones.
The senior flamethrower from W.F. West was selected in the 16th round of the Major League Baseball draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks, which would be a fine feather in any ballplayer’s cap. However, in this space it could be argued (like balls and strikes by visiting fans) that it wasn’t even the biggest honor bestowed upon Jones on the day. That’s because the Bearcats’ ace pitcher was also named MVP of the Chronicle’s All-Area baseball team.
Jones, a southpaw who appears to infuse hot lava into his arsenal of unhittable pitches, finished the season with an earned run average of just 0.80 and 89 strikeouts in under 44 innings pitched. That means he allowed less than a run per game while striking out more than two batters per inning. To top it off, Jones allowed just 14 hits on the season as he helped the Bearcats earn yet another Evergreen 2A Conference title.
Surprisingly, this was the first season that Jones was tasked with ace duties for W.F. West. That’s what happens when you come up in a program with a loaded pitching staff that featured a pair of D-1 pitchers at the top. That’s precisely the circumstance that Jones found himself in during his sophomore and junior campaigns when current Washington State University pitchers Brandon White and Tyson Guerrero were headlining the Bearcats pitching staff. With such a stacked staff Jones spent his first two years on varsity coming out of the bullpen in an old school fireman/closer role that saw him wracking up strikeouts at a nearly mythical rate.
“He’s such a competitive kid that he fit the role of being that guy who came in at the end of the game for the last couple of years,” noted W.F. West coach Bryan Bullock.
Jones admits that it took him a little while to adjust to his new role as a starting pitcher this year. If you saw him pitch though, or even looked at his stats, it was apparent that the learning curve wasn’t nearly as steep as the angle on his offspeed pitches.
“It was hard to adapt early on but as the season went on I got used to it and knew that I needed to lead the team,” said Jones, who is currently weighing his options between going pro and pitching for the University of Washington next season.
He noted that he valued his time pitching behind, and learning from, first rate huckers like White and Guerrero.
“Both of them are two of my best friends so I really supported them and knew that my time would come. I’d never been a starter before so I had a lot of questions about the routine of things and how to get ready for the game and just how to be the dude. It was fun,” Jones explained.
Jones contributions were by no means limited to the mound this season. With a batting average of .388, an on base percentage of .471, and a slugging percentage of .635, Jones was a wrecking ball in the batters box as well. He also totaled 15 doubles and 21 RBI on the season on his way to MVP honors in the EvCo.
“He’s a coach’s dream. You’ve got a left handed power arm and a great competitor who loves to have the ball in his hands and then with his athleticism not only was he so dominant on the mound but he played outfield and first base for us and hit in the heart of our lineup,” noted Bullock.
If Jones had one regret it’s that he wasn’t able to help his team reach the state playoffs this season. He acknowledged that expectations run high in the Mint City whether they’re being projected from the stands or from the Bearcat’s own dugout.
“I think that it’s actually both. I know that we’ve been a really successful baseball team over the last four or five years,” Jones explained. “We’ve made it to state every year during my career other than this year and our community really supports us. We have a lot of donors. A lot of sponsors. And for us the players winning is the only option so losing is pretty hard.”
Fellow Bearcat seniors Daniel Fagerness and Lane Douglass along with junior Leandre Gaines were also tabbed for the All-Area team.
Gaines had his season cut short when he was sidelined with a ruptured appendix. However, in the 17 games before he wound up in the hospital he put up some monstrous offensive numbers that included three home runs and 13 RBI. His final slash line included a .545 batting average, a .627 on base percentage, and a slugging percentage reminiscent of Barry Bonds at 1.036.
Like Jones, Fagerness found success both as a pitcher and a hitter in his final season donning the crimson and grey. At the plate Fagerness put up a .380 batting average with a .463 on base percentage. Meanwhile, on the mound the right hander they call “Scoob” racked up a perfect 5-0 record with a save for good measure. He held his foes in check with an ERA of 1.53 with just nine earned runs on his watch all year. Fagerness also had a tally of 41 strikeouts in 41 innings pitched to help earn first team All-EvCo honors.
Douglass handled the catching duties for the Bearcats most of the season after spending the majority of his career as an outfielder. It was in the batter’s box and on the basepaths, though, that the speedy Douglass did most of his damage with a batting average of .358 and an on base percentage of .500. Douglass, a first team All-EvCo selection, also added 18 runs to the W.F. West offense out of the leadoff spot.
Looking back on the Bearcats’ accomplishments of the last few years Bullock was struck by the level of success that seniors Fagerness, Jones, Douglass, and even Gaines, have helped to cement as a year-in and year-out expectation for the program.
“At the end of the season, it didn’t finish the way we wanted it to, but we wanted our seniors to go back and look at what they’ve accomplished. They were 68-9 over their three years of varsity Bearcat baseball. That not only speaks to their talent but also the fact that they were willing to show up every day and work hard to get better,” said Bullock. “The seniors leave with a 41-game EvCo winning streak and as they get into the next chapter of their life, whether that’s baseball or something else, I think they’ll have a lot of good memories to look back on.”
In the Hub City, it was Derek Beairsto and Jeremy Wood who were selected for the All-Area team. Wood, a first team All-EvCo selection, anchored the leadoff spot in the order for the Tigers all season long and hit .346 with seven stolen bases. He was also 3-3 on the mound with a 1.58 ERA in 35 ⅓ innings. Meanwhile, Beairsto hit just under .300 while driving in 14 runs. The junior made his biggest impact during his 37 innings on the mound, though, with a 4-1 record as a starter and two saves in relief. Beairsto was a second team All-EvCo selection.
Just over the Thurston County line, Tyler Soderback was busy making a name for himself this year while donning the tools of ignorance for Rochester. The senior catcher earned First Team EvCo honors this season thanks in part to the way he handled his pitching staff and held runners in check. His stick was potent, too, with a .400 batting average, 13 RBI, 11 runs scored, three doubles, and two home runs. The catcher even managed to leg out a triple, one of the rarest of all baseball happenings.
Alex Bratton, a senior pitcher who’s headed to Lower Columbia College in the fall, was the lone representative out of the Stone City. Bratton was selected to the 1A Evergreen League team this season and it’s not hard to see why when looking at his stats. The right hander threw 42 innings on the year with a 4-2 record, 62 strikeouts, and an ERA of 1.80.
Adna was able to land three of their seniors on the All-Area team. Camden Ryan led the way for the Pirates on the mound with a record of 5-1. Ryan, who was a first team selection for the Central 2B All-League team, also racked up 53 strikeouts in 33 innings pitched with a 1.58 ERA. Sawyer Burdick, another right handed pitcher, was also a first team All-League selection. Burdick, who also patrolled the outfield, put up his most impressive numbers at the plate this season with a .340 batting average, a dozen RBI, 11 walks and seven runs scored. Chance Fay flashed the leather for the Pirates all year at first base and simultaneously helped to power the team’s offense with a batting average of .316 and 20 runs scored. Fay, who was also a first team C2BL selection, managed to drive in eight runs while legging out a matching pair of doubles and triples.
Napavine had a pair of players make it onto the All-Area team. Laythan Demarest, a sophomore, was also tabbed as a First Team C2BL selection thanks to his defensive efforts. Demarest plugged the shortstop hole most of the season while also taking the ball on the mound every third game or so. Demarest pitched the most innings for the Tigers with a 2.62 ERA and 40 strikeouts in 37 ⅓ innings worked. He also finished the season with a .385 batting average, a .484 on base percentage, 23 runs scored, and six doubles out of 25 hits. Seth Butler was another key cog for Napavine this year and was voted onto the second team of the C2BL. Butler, a senior, moved around the infield as needed and took the ball on the hill whenever asked. At the plate the one they call “Short Stroke” batted .388, with 18 runs, 11 stolen bases, 10 RBI, and four doubles.
Onalaska has a trio of Loggers on the All-Area team. Seniors Tristen Lawrence and Tanner McLean were both voted onto the second team of the C2BL primarily on the merits of their crafty pitching. Those two pitchers helped keep hitters off balance all year long as the Loggers made it to the regional round of the state playoffs. Lawrence pitched more than any ballplayer in the area with 58 ⅓ innings logged on the mound. He finished the season with a 39 strikeouts and a 1.80 ERA. McLean was no slouch either with a perfect 4-0 record and one save in 48 ⅓ innings pitched. He struck out 23 batters and notched a 2.89 ERA. AJ Volk was Onalaska’s lone representative on the C2BL first team. The senior shortstop played nearly flawless defense up the middle and pitched in a few spot appearances. Volk was most fearsome at the plate, however, with a .435 batting average, 22 runs scored, and 14 RBI. He also stole 14 bases while legging out three triples and two doubles.