Some of the little guys who started playing baseball together when they were youngsters are now the big boys on the Lake Washington High roster.
They’re doing everything in a huge way. At press time, the Kangs scored 199 total runs and eight of the nine regulars were hitting over .300. The Kangs’ record is an eye-catching, bat-busting 12-0 in 3A KingCo and 19-1 overall.
The top-seeded KingCo Kangs will take on Mercer Island in the opening round of the league tourney at 7 p.m. Saturday at Bannerwood Park in Bellevue. Juanita plays Interlake in the other matchup at 4 p.m., with the victors meeting in the championship, winner-to-state game at 7 p.m. May 6. The losers will continue their state quests May 6, 8 and 11.
“It’s just really an overall team effort,” said LW head coach Derek Bingham. “Our strength is that we have 10 guys going to play college baseball next year. There’s a lot of kids that love baseball, that have been around it for a long time.”
It’s a deep squad and the Kangs are tough outs when they’re wielding their bats.
Senior outfielder Nation Wood broke the school record for home runs in a season, blasting his fifth and sixth dingers when the Kangs won the 41st annual Morenci Lions Invitational in Arizona in April. At press time, he’s hitting .436, slugging .982, has 10 doubles and 31 RBIs, also a school record for a season.
On the running front, senior second baseman I-Ly Hsue has school season records of 33 runs scored and 18 stolen bases (tie). He set the LW career stolen-bases record with 28, which was formerly held by Austin Lively with 26.
The Kangs’ defense has been reliable all season long, Bingham said, and leading the way from the mound have been seniors Jose Vizcarra (six wins), Oliver Laufman and Andrew Urrutia. Junior Lane Kraabel fanned 11 against Bellevue in his first KingCo start.
Standing tall at first base is senior Torin Montgomery, who looks around the field and said it’s unreal that the seniors will finish their high-school careers this month. They want to go out with a bang, he added with a smile.
“This program has welcomed us all in with open arms and has tailored us into better ball players,” Montgomery said. “We’re just drilling in the idea to our guys that we gotta earn everything, we gotta work for everything that comes our way and I think that’s part of our success.”
Bingham noted that he not only has a special group of players on his side, but they’re good kids as well. They’re excited to see what they can achieve this month and will need to match other teams’ energy and intensity every step of the way.
“The Kangs program, it’s all about family here,” said senior center fielder Ricky Koishida. “We have a tight-knit community here. All of the seniors, we’ve been playing together since we were 8-9-10, so we’ve all kind of built this friendship, this bond together that makes us a really good program as a whole.”
In their time away from the field, the Kangs hang out on the beach and play volleyball, pickleball and basketball. The enjoy each other’s company and understand one another, added Koishida, who figures they probably spend more time together then they do with their own families each week.
At the end of games and practices, Montgomery added that the Kangs yell, “Family on three.”
“That’s become something that tightens us together and it reminds everyone of what our roles are and how to grow as a team,” he said.
Getting on base and setting the stage for the three-through-five power guys is one role, Koishida said, and that’s been vital to their success.
Second baseman Hsue noted that Bingham says for LW to go 1-0 every day and they’ll roll from there. Respecting the game and the people around the Kangs’ camp and having a solid mindset have been factors to their success, Hsue added.
Hsue feels his role this season is, “Just do my best and do it for my family. We’re all family on this field, we rely on each other to make plays, get on base. And off the field, too, we rely on each other.”