Kangs flexing early KingCo muscle

After going 8-12 last year and returning just one senior, it would have been easy to dismiss Mike De Aguiar’s unjustified preseason optimism.

LW off to a 6-1 league start after wins over Redmond and Juanita

After going 8-12 last year and returning just one senior, it would have been easy to dismiss Mike De Aguiar’s unjustified preseason optimism.

Even after the Lake Washington softball team won their first four games this season, it would have been easy to look at the 8-21 combined record of its opponents and shrug off the fast start.

But after the first two games this week, there is no denying it: Lake Washington is a force in 4A Kingco.

Catcher Nicole Spangler hit a home run and drove in four runs and made a key defensive play in the decisive seventh inning as Lake Washington beat Redmond 6-4 at Crestwood Park on Wednesday. Redmond had entered the game with a 6-1 mark.

The Kangs upset win against the Mustangs came two days after Lake Washington defeated rival Juanita 11-7 behind Kealy McMullen’s 3-for-4 performance. Tammy Smallman and Alexandra Jennings each added two hits in the victory against a Juanita team that was 6-2 entering the game.

“It’s a dream season,” said De Aguiar. “Just let them play. You let them play and they are executing. They are doing everything that they need to do and as you saw today, it’s amazing what they can do.”

What Lake Washington has accomplished so far is win its first six games. The Kangs lost 2-1 to second place Eastlake (6-1 in KingCo) on Friday in a tight contest. In its first six wins, Lake Washington scored in double digits each game except for the Redmond contest.

Against the Mustangs, the Kangs led 6-1 after five innings when De Aguiar pulled sophomore sensation Sarah Aasness from the mound and replaced her with Rogin Hardy. Redmond proceeded to get hits from four of the next five hitters, scoring three of them before Aasness came back into the game to end the Mustangs’ threat.

“Everybody is dying to have a pitcher like that,” De Aguiar said. “She has the speed. She has movement on her balls, and everything is just clicking. You saw when I tried to give her a break and change (pitchers), they started picking up on Rogin’s pitches and (I) made the change back and they couldn’t touch her.”

Redmond would end up loading the bases in the seventh, but could not get another hit thanks in part to Spangler throwing out a would-be base stealer for the second out.

“They aren’t afraid of anybody,” the head coach said. “Last year they would be intimidated by other powerhouse teams, but this year they are stepping up to the challenge.”

Lake Washington proved that in the first inning, thanks to Spangler’s two-run home run to left field.

“It just hit off the bat and I knew I had to start running,” Spangler said. “It’s definitely a head rush, with your teammates all drowning you. It feels really amazing.”

Lake Washington scored two more runs in the third thanks to two Redmond errors, and Spangler hit a key two-out, two-run single in the fourth to extend the lead to 6-1.

Redmond head coach Jackie Bloom said she was proud of the way Redmond battled toward the end, scoring three in the sixth and putting the tying run in scoring position in the seventh. But the team struggled in the middle innings.

“(We need to) make sure we are bringing out the same intensity the whole game,” said Bloom, who graduated from Lake Washington in 1994. “I think if the ladies look at this (game), I think they could look back and say we kind of doubted ourselves. Then at the end we started believing in ourselves, and we just have to fix that so we start believing in ourselves the whole way.”

Believing hasn’t been a problem for the Kangs, who trail only Woodinville atop the league standings. But that doesn’t mean Lake Washington has reached its full potential.

“We still have more to go,” De Aguiar said. “We have a lot more to go. We are still building. We haven’t peaked yet, and hopefully we don’t peak until like May 9 when it’s time to play the playoffs.”