Pitching, Defense Help Kangaroos Ascend To No. 2

Is Lake Washington High School's baseball team really this good?

The Kangaroos (11-1) were ranked second in the state Class AAA baseball poll this week, which indicates the historic high regard for KingCo Conference baseball.

The league produced four state champions in the 1980s.

``Pitching has been our biggest weapon. We're not dominating people - we beat Issaquah by one run,'' Coach Dave Chambers said.

In past years Chambers has been blessed with outstanding pitchers. Ron Allen, his top thrower of 1988, is pitching his second season at Texas A & M. Rob Rees, the top hurler last year, is playing his second professional season.

``We didn't get very far in the playoffs with those two guys (Allen and Rees). I don't know if we will this year either. I think the competition we had when those guys were pitching was possibly a little above what we are facing this year.

``We seem to be getting the breaks,'' Chambers said.

This year, instead of relying on a one-armed staff, Lake Washington is blessed with three starting pitchers. He alternates starters and often splits games among senior Jeff Bulman and underclassmen Ryan Bickel and Jason Brewer.

``We have three guys we can use with confidence. Garrett Grisham, our center fielder, is having an outstanding year as is second baseman Jimmy Cox. We're getting steady defense from the whole group.''

Chambers calls his team's defensive play probably the best in his eight seasons.

Grisham had two doubles last night as the Kangaroos (8-1) hopped past Bellevue, 4-0, behind Brewer's two-hitter. Brad Newcomer and Jim Kim each went 3-for-3.

Bothell (5-3) beat Sammamish 4-2 on Sean Durbin's one-hitter to take over second place in the Crown Division as Inglemoor and Woodinville each lost, dropping their records to 5-4.

Bickel, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, pitched Junior Legion ball last summer for Chambers, who anticipated Bickel would make varsity this spring.

``He's done quite a bit better than I expected,'' the coach admitted.

One major factor is improved control.

Rees didn't play varsity as a sophomore, but Allen did. Chambers said Bickel has great potential and rates with those two at this stage.

-- Ron Allen had a key role in the baseball battle of Texas last weekend, but lost 5-1 to the University of Texas.

Allen's pitching record dropped to 6-2; overall his varsity record at Texas A & M is 15-3.

``Friday I had a really good game, but we had one bad inning where everything went disastrous,'' he said. ``I still think I'm doing pretty good.''

Texas, ranked No. 6 nationally, won two of three from the Aggies, ranked No. 14.

Allen, who has 55 strikeouts in 77 innings, said he hopes to be drafted following his junior year.

``We had eight starters, and 11 players in all, drafted off our team last year. We don't have the hitters we had a year ago. It's just the opposite this year. Our pitching was ranked sixth in ERA in the nation last week.'' he said.

Rees is with the New York Mets and has been at St. Lucie, Fla., since last month. He said he is happy with his progress and expects to be assigned to one of the Mets' three Class A clubs.

Juanita, winning its fourth game in a row, 6-1 at Issaquah, and got its fourth straight complete game from a pitcher. Joe Stringham (3-1) struck out five and lost his shutout after a seventh-inning error.

-- Freshman of the spring? Erin Gowen has taken over as No. 1 player on the KingCo Conference's top team, Mercer Island. She beat senior Shauna Swerland 6-3, 6-1 in a challenge match. . . . Karen Schwartz, also Mercer Island, has been outstanding in field events: high jumping 5-0; long-jumping 16-8 and triple-jumping 34-2 1/2.