Every team has its core, the players who are the unchallenged leaders that everyone looks to. For Bellevue Christian, that’s a quartet of seniors: Jeremy Bohnett, Jon Houck, Kyle Taylor and James King, the cogs who have helped the Vikings capture back-to-back-to-back Emerald City League titles.
Now coaches Jim Rubstello and Rob May look to the seniors to lead the Vikings just a bit further, to a 1A state championship. That road started with a 2-0 victory over Friday Harbor on May 7 in the first round of the Tri-District tournament.
Bohnett steps into the batters box against Friday Harbor’s Richie Ochoa, one of Class 1A’s best left-handed pitchers. Bohnett sends Ochoa’s first pitch into left field for an RBI double that gives the Vikings the only run they would need.
Jeremy Bohnett is the goofy kid with the big arm that opponents fear. He’s also the one who will throw his body on the line for every ball that comes near his 6-foot, 6-inch frame in centerfield.
“I just play each play like it’s my last,” Bohnett said. “It sounds cliché but I don’t like to hold anything back.”
He’s the big kid with the big bat who made the big impression. King still remembers the first time he played with Bohnett freshman year.
“He hit a home run in his first at-bat against Ritzville,” King said. “That’s the kind of guy he has been since he has been here.”
While his outfield arm may get a lot of attention from opponents, his bat may be his most dangerous weapon of all. In 13 regular season games Bohnett hit .421 and lead the Vikings with 16 RBIs.
“As much of a goof around as he is at practice, he’ll give a better effort than anybody,” Rubstello said. “He just loves baseball.”
The Vikings will take the goofball any day.
Holding a 1-0 lead in the third inning, Houck throws out Friday Harbor’s Alex Jangard by a foot on a steal attempt to end the inning.
Jon Houck may be quiet, but his play speaks volumes. The only thing that might be louder is his other hobby – Houck is an all-state trumpeter in band and jazz band, as well as a part of the Seattle Youth Symphony.
“I take a little flak for that,” he said.
His teammates don’t raze him as much when it comes to his play on the field. His quiet demeanor on the baseball diamond belies the talent that sits crouched behind the plate for seven innings a game.
“Jon is a real quiet guy, but in my opinion, he’s the most underrated player in the league,” King said. “He’s been my catcher for the past three years and all the league championships. He’s a great guy with great integrity.”
“Jon’s just smart, one of the smartest guys I’ve ever met,” Taylor said. “He knows the game of baseball. It’s important to have such a smart player back there.”
Houck, who is hitting .343 with 13 RBIs this season, will head to Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo next year, where he’ll study architecture.
“I won’t be playing ball,” he said. “But I’ll probably continue jazz band.”
With one on and two out in the bottom of the third inning, Taylor launches an RBI triple that soars over every outfielder, driving in a crucial second run for the Vikings.
You can see the love of baseball in Kyle Taylor’s eyes. The way he talks about the game, the way he’s left speechless when he hears someone suggest he may be the best player to ever pass through the Bellevue Christian program.
“When I hear someone say that, it just gives me chills,” Taylor said. “I’ve worked really hard to be as good as I can be. And I just really love baseball.”
Taylor, last season’s Emerald City League MVP, is the type of player who can take over every game he plays, Rubstello said. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Kyle wants the game, the big game every game,” Rubstello said. “When things get tedious, that’s what eats him up. He always wants to perform at the highest level.”
The highest level that Taylor hopes to achieve someday is a place in the Major Leagues. Until then, he has his sights set on a state title, something the Vikings never have achieved.
“Every year we say ‘this is the year, this is the year,’ and now it’s our last chance,” said Taylor, who leads the Vikings in hitting with a .467 average. “It’s been the four of us talking about a state title since our freshman year. I want to go out on top.”
King is only two outs away from finishing off a four-hitter against Friday Harbor. The right-hander strikes out Justin James and Ryan Alyward swinging to seal the Bellevue Christian victory.
James King has been called “King James” by coaches and opponents alike, but what really separates Bellevue Christian’s ace pitcher from the rest is his uncanny mound presence.
“I’m definitely not an extrovert on the mound,” King said. “I’m focused to say the least. I know what I got to do and I don’t take no for an answer when we’re fighting for a win. The attitude a pitcher has to have is to go out there and dominate.”
After doing just that against Friday Harbor, King celebrates with the team on the field. But while the team continues the celebration off the field, King is still out there running along the outfield fences.
“He’s just amazing in his dedication,” Taylor said. “Every time he’s on the mound, you know he’s going to give you 100 percent. You can’t say that about everybody.”
King seems to have a special knack for stepping up against the stiffest of competition. Since his freshman year, the right-hander has gone 15-3 against league rivals and playoff constants Overlake and Cedar Park Christian.
“I just know I have to do my part every game,” King said. “I’m really proud of the way our team has played the last few years. Every single one of these guys is great guys and we’re working hard to win that state title.”
Four players, all with different perspectives, traits and abilities. Four players who hope to bring a team together and leave the school with a state title to remember.
“We’ve all been close friends since our freshman year,” Taylor said. “Now, we’re more focused than ever to win that title.”
Joel Willits can be reached at 425-453-4270 ext. 5060 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.