AP NEWS

Prep baseball preview: Mt. Spokane leans on experience for another title run

April 4, 2019

Mt. Spokane athletes have had an impressive run this school year with the wrestling team earning a State 3A championship, both basketball teams playing in the state title game and the gymnastics squad finishing fifth at state.

Baseball coach Alex Schuerman thinks his senior-laded squad will keep up the pace for the Wildcats.

“Oh, man. It’s been a crazy sports year for Mt. Spokane,” Schuerman said. “This senior class here at Mt. Spokane has been just fantastic athletically. They’re great to work with. The time they put into hone their craft is unprecedented, really.

“But yeah, it’s been so fun to be a Wildcat this year.”

With four college-bound seniors returning from a squad that won a Greater Spokane League title last season with a 16-2 record, Schuerman expects the fun to continue.

“We bring back a lot of a lot of senior depth,” he said. “So we’re excited about that. We had a great summer and now we have high expectations.”

The program has lost just two league games the last two seasons, and much of that success can be traced to its stellar senior class.

They were disappointed last year after entering the District 8 3A playoffs as the top seed but getting bounced in a loser-out game in the second-place bracket by Kamiakin.

“Last year always hurts a ton,” senior outfielder Brady Hill said. “Thinking back, we should have gone way further than we did. But this year we’ve got the team to go extremely far and we can definitely do that.”

Schuerman said his team’s experience will come into play this season.

“They’ve put in a lot of time and they are accomplished and polished,” he said. “It is a lot of fun to be around and coach these kids.”

Pitcher Stu Flesland will play for Boise State next season. The 6-foot-4 lefty had the opportunity over the summer to participate in the national Area Code Games for the Pacific Northwest team.

“It was a really great honor and it was cool to even be selected for the tryout,” Flesland said.

“He’s got the craftiness as a lefty like you always like to see, but he’s also got the competitiveness and the fire and he throws hard,” Schuerman said. “He throws three pitches for strikes and just really does it all on the mound for us.”

When he’s not pitching, Flesland is the first baseman and cleanup hitter.

“He does a lot for us. He’s an important part of our team,” Schuerman added.

Quentin Ayers is a two-time first-team All-GSL selection at catcher.

“He’s probably the best catcher we’ve ever had,” Schuerman said. “He throws amazing, calls a great game, blocks pitches well, handles pitchers well. He’s a good leader, and hits in our (No. 3) hole for us.”

Ayers became a starter midway through his freshman year.

“He seems like he’s been here for like, eight years,” Schuerman said. “He’s just that important to us. He brings a lot to the table for us – defensively and offensively.”

“Just being a senior kind of puts the leadership role in the name,” Ayers said. “As a senior you naturally have to step up, too – but as a catcher especially.”

For Schuerman, it’s a personal thing with Ayers as well.

“His dad and I were battery mates in high school and college and he just holds a special place for me,” he said.

“It’s definitely bittersweet,” Ayers said of his senior season. “I’ve been around the game for so long and senior year you kind of want to go out with a bang, right?”

Schuerman’s personal connection with his players doesn’t end there. His son, Jeter, will line up at third on most afternoons.

“He’s been around the yard a little bit,” the coach said of the sophomore. “He’s got a good idea of the game. And it’s fun for me to have him around. It’s going to be fun to watch him develop this season.”

Hill is committed to Washington State to play center field. He set the Mt. Spokane stolen base record with 28 last season and is a natural leadoff hitter.

“He can hit, he can track it down in center. He’s just a really good player,” Schuerman said. “So yeah, I’m excited for him to extend his career at WSU.”

But Hill is also drawing interest from scouts for his arm.

“Brady is one of the best athletes I’ve ever had on the field,” Schuerman said. “Just a phenomenal arm. His velocity is really high right now and people are all over him for that.”

Hill, who doesn’t have much of a leg kick in his delivery, is generating that velocity mostly from his upper body, which is what has scouts drooling.

“They think they can kind of sculpt them into a pitcher maybe, who knows?” Schuerman said. “But he’s just a great leadoff guy and a great player for us. He’s gonna have a nice long career.”

“I can’t be thinking about that,” Hill said of the pro scouts. “I just have to focus on the team and do what’s good for us.”

The fourth senior with an offer in pocket is utility player and reliever Braden DeSonia, who is headed to Columbia College, an NAIA program in Missouri.

“DeSonia is your unsung guy in terms of he does everything right,” Schuerman said. “He does everything well. He’s good hitter. He’s a good bunter. Good fielder, he pitches.

“He’s a guy that you just have to have on your team.”

The Wildcats get a little bump of the state basketball mojo from SS/P JT Smith, a second-team All-GSL selection who averaged 11.6 points for the state runner-up.

Smith uses an unconventional sidearm delivery which produces funky movement to right-handed batters.

“He’s unflappable,” Schuerman said of Smith. “He’s a kid that you know, hits big 3s in the basketball games and on the mound I can bring him in late because I know he’s gonna throw strikes and be effective and get people out.”

Schuerman said Smith’s basketball experience translates to the baseball field.

“Pitching late in games isn’t any more difficult than facing Rainier Beach in the (state) semifinals at the (Tacoma) Dome this year. That’s easy probably compared to this. It’s good to have that kind of moxie from our seniors to be able to do that.”

Schuerman said the level of competition at Mt. Spokane helps drive the success of the athletic programs from the top to the bottom, and his baseball team is reaping the benefits.

“I think we’ve always been good at balancing because we always have some good seniors and then our players know that there’s a competitive environment here and so they work hard to get better,” he said. “We had a great summer and my JV team last year was 20-0. I mean, Mt. Spokane kids walk in expecting to win and they usually know how to work hard to get there, you know? And so it just it’s just a matter of putting it all together each game and trying to come out on top.”