They had not donned the Eastlake uniform for two years. Their 2020 season was completely cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. And even with a shortened 2021 season, the Eastlake High School baseball team came out swinging.
The Wolves ended their season with a 9-1 record, and on June 11, defeated Lake Washington to win the Lake Washington School District championship.
“This is a group that had a major attitude change, an attitude where we’re in this thing together,” said head coach Frank Smith, who credits teamwork as the main factor in the team’s success.
The 2021 season was atypical in many ways, starting with a shortened ten-game season. There was more pressure to do well in each game, but the Wolves still emerged victorious through perseverance and hard work.
“I knew we were going to have a solid year because the group of guys we had this year all put in work in the off-season and quarantine,” said sophomore pitcher Bryce Johnson. “So going into the season, we were all expecting to go undefeated.”
One of the team’s most notable wins was their first against Lake Washington on May 21. As state champions with a dedicated fanbase, Lake Washington was Eastlake’s toughest competition. The Wolves answered by knocking out five home runs, and resoundingly won with a score of 14-2.
“It was really cool to see our offense coming to life and how powerful our batters were,” said Jared Johnson, the team’s captain and senior, as he reflected on that particular game.
The team’s strength came from the combination of individual talents. Smith highlighted performances from Bryce Johnson and Jared Johnson as noteworthy. He also commended senior Jack Lathwell as a key utility player, junior Griffin Miller as the top home run hitter, junior Noah Weintraub for hitting .500 on the season, and junior Will Woodward for excellent pitching performance.
Although there were not many seniors on the team, Smith said their absence will be strongly felt next year.
“Our incoming seniors this year have been a great group of all-around athletes, which really helped our team get ready for the season,” said Johnson, the sophomore pitcher.
Many of the players want to continue playing baseball beyond high school. Bryce Johnson aspires to play at the Division-1 level in college, with hopes of playing professionally one day. Woodward has verbally committed to playing baseball at the University of Washington. Jared Johnson will be attending Brown University in the fall and joining the baseball team while studying mechanical engineering.
Smith said he was thankful for the team’s dedication and strong will, as well as for the community’s support, throughout the season.
“I just appreciated the boys’ support, as well as the parents and fans that support and root for kids that aren’t their own,” he said.