Talent, Depth Make Gonzaga Prep Baseball Title ContenderUpdated:
The way the season has started for the Gonzaga Prep baseball team, the toughest part of head coach Brian Munhall's job may be finding playing time for everyone.
The Bullpups (8-0) -- who are ranked No. 5 in the state in the latest Washington Baseball Poll -- have an almost too-good-to-believe roster. It starts with the experience that comes with having 13 seniors, but extends far beyond that.
All you have to do is take a look at the battery on any given day, whatever combination it may be. Gonzaga Prep has four starters that could end up playing at the Division I level, Munhall said.
There's Justin Blatner, a junior that has already committed to Gonzaga. There's Max Graves, who is looking at Ivy League schools and Georgetown, and according to Munhall, has the ability to play at a small DI program. There's Zac Regal, a transfer from Mead, only a junior, but getting looks. Then there's Wyatt Mills, who Munhall says, "I think he'll be a D1 guy by the time he's done this year."
Behind the plate is returning All-League Second Team catcher Kane Ulrich, who will play next season at Lower Columbia College. He'll share time with fellow Second-Teamer Zach Bonneau, who is getting calls from junior colleges, Munhall said.
And that's just the pitchers and catchers.
"Early on we've played well and we've won most of our games by quite a bit," Munhall said. "It's allowed me to get in everybody. They're athletes. Bonneau plays the outfield, he played first. Ulrich's our starting second baseman when he's not catching. There's a couple guys that are your every day no matter what guys, whether it's catch, second, third, and then the other guys are shuffling and fighting.
"It might be a little frustrating, but at the same time it's a whole lot of competition and it doesn't let guys have bad days or take days off or have lazy days."
The excess of talent creates an atmosphere of constant competition. The players are evaluated on a daily basis. That cutthroat environment could lead to constant stress, but the Bullpups seem to be handling it well.
"Having your teammates around you -- Munhall, he motivates us and stuff -- but just having that in the back of your head that this guy next to me can take my spot is your motivation," Blatner said. It's so deep, it just motivates you."
"I try not to think about getting pulled or anything, having a bad day," infielder Anthony Gosline added. "I just try to work hard every day. Come in day in, day out, getting our team better, getting myself better. Trying to make the team win and get better for state and everything."
Another difference between this year's team and the 2012 one that took 8th in state is the leadership. Munhall admits that there has been a lack of vocal senior leadership in past years.
"I have a couple guys that we really count on to lead," he said. "They take care of some of the problems I don't want to deal with. When it comes from a player it means a million times more than when it comes from the coach. Coach is the authority, but the player, somebody says something, you're not doing it right, it's like, 'Oh.'"
It all seems to be coming together perfectly for the Bullpups, who have yet to be tested during a GSL game. The schedule will get tougher in the next couple of weeks, with a pair of games against Mead (8-0) on April 23 and 25 that could decide the league champion.
But Gonzaga Prep is eager for a challenge. Even if it were to breeze through GSL play, which is unlikely, the ultimate goal is greater than a league championship.
"I think everyone's pretty much bought in to what we believe in here at Prep," Blatner said. "We got a good team here this year. Everyone knows we got potential this year. If we're out here working hard, we want to make the best of the season because who knows when we're going to get another team like this."