New coach expects plenty of learning this year at K-M

Kent-Meridian’s Jake Barber fires a pitch Monday against Tahoma. The Bears beat K-M 14-0. - Ross Coyle/Kent Reporter
Kent-Meridian’s Jake Barber fires a pitch Monday against Tahoma. The Bears beat K-M 14-0.
— image credit: Ross Coyle/Kent Reporter

Kent-Meridian High School coach Ian Sanderson expected his first league baseball game against Tahoma to be a "learning experience."

A learning experience could define his first season coaching the Royals. Coming from the Yakima Baseball Academy, he's been used to having room to work in and sunny days on the fields. The rainy springs of Seattle are a different beast, and require different tactics for coaching.

Sanderson, a Shelton native, has learned the difficulties of practicing on the west side of the Cascades. During warmer sunny days the Royals (0-2, 0-5) have to take full advantage of their field because as soon as the rains roll in outside practices are nixed.

The team practices batting in a makeshift cage behind the second floor bleachers of the large gym. A net keeps the baseballs from wrecking windows. They get a chance to practice short throws on the basketball courts.

Sanderson has also had to look to some of his senior players for support and credibility. Veterans like pitcher James Cook and catcher Austin Whittum have taken the reigns as kind of "go betweens" for the younger players and Sanderson.

"Our old coach (Tim) Akins had a different personality than this guy, and I don't know if one is better than the other, but you got to adapt and it usually takes time to adapt to a new coach," Cooke says. "We've been around longer than he has, so it feels like younger kids know us more than they know the new coach. So it's kind of important that we step into those leadership roles a little more."

"I also think it's kind of a good thing," Whittum says. "He doesn't know us, we have to impress him, so everyone's trying harder."

While Sanderson says that feels his team is becoming more cohesive, they'll still struggle with pitching and batting. He's currently fielding only six pitchers but thinks that "we need probably closer to 10. Next week we're gonna have four games in five days."

He's also preparing his players for dealing with frustration that will come from having an uphill battle during games.

"This is a game of failure, so it's trying to teach these kids how to accept failure in a tough game," Sanderson says.

But he quickly notes that he'll expect his players to stay competitive in the face of that adversity.

It's easy for players to get in their heads when they don't live up to their own expectations, says Sanderson, but the key is to help them understand the line between progress and stagnation. Even if they don't get to a base, they've been successful by seeing eight pitches.

"This is a game where to be successful you fail seven out of 10 times, and then you're considered great," he says.

Senior Tyler McDaniel led the Royals last year with a 2.03 ERA. The Royals batted .249.

The Royals lost 14-0 to Tahoma on Monday and lost to Auburn Riverside 12-2 on Tuesday.

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