Knights return seven players from district playoff team | Baseball

By David Pan | Mar 18, 2016

The King’s baseball team is hoping to build off of last year’s success.

After an absence of more than 30 years, King’s High School brought back the baseball program in 2015 and the Knights advanced to the district playoffs.

Most of those players return, as King’s only graduated three seniors from a team that went 6-16 overall with two close losses in the district tournament.

“I think it was a success,” Knights head coach Jake Beattiger said of his inaugural season. “Getting the program started and off the ground, you don’t know what you have to work with. Year one was successful. We went to the playoffs. Hopefully, we can build off the positives we had last year.”

The Knights will have an experienced team with seven returning players and a total of 10 seniors on the roster. The future looks promising with 11 freshmen this year. Looking ahead, Beattiger noted that there are 10 eighth graders he would like to see continue on at the high school level.

As for 2016, senior shortstop/pitcher Jack Kennelly is one of King’s key players. He hit leadoff last season and will be somewhere near the top of the order.

“He’s going to be the heart and soul of the defense,” Beattiger said. “His leadership is going to be paramount to our success, both offensively and defensively. … He’s very quick. He has developed a lot more power. He’s developed into a better hitter.”

Kennelly has committed to play baseball for Bellevue College.

Also back is second baseman Jake Welch. He saw action as a utility infielder and also pitched last season.

Beattiger has no shortage of pitching candidates with Kennelly, Welch, junior Alex Mason, senior Koa Wilkins and freshman Brian Spear. The freshman standout also will see some time behind the plate in relief of returning senior Jackson Whitaker, who also is a pitcher. Freshman outfielder Luke Bobin also could see time on the mound.

Senior Chase Leland is back to play left field and he’ll be joined by Wilkins, a football and basketball standout, who is slated to start in center field. Wilkins didn’t play baseball last year after deciding to focus on football and basketball.

Mason is the Knights’ top hitter and probably will bat third in the lineup, Bettinger said.

The Knights will look to take advantage of their speed.

“We’re going to play small ball,” Beattiger said. “When we get guys on, situational hitting is big. We’re going to have to rely on getting guys on base, moving them over with clutch hits. We’re not going to drive the ball out of the yard. We’ll be relying on contact hitting and hitting for average.”

King’s faces tough competition in the Cascade Conference with 2A Archbishop Murphy and Cedarcrest, both of which advanced to the state regional playoffs last season. 1A rival South Whidbey took second place at state.

“We will be underdogs in most of those 2A games,” Beattiger said. “It’s a good measuring stick when we play the higher end or better teams, It’s a good gauge of what we need to improve on.”