After learning just two days before the first tryout of the team’s third new coach in four seasons, the Ingraham Rams’ 10 seniors were skeptical of a last-minute replacement who could be a one-hit wonder.
To their surprise, what was once thought of as a lost senior season for some has become one for the record books for Ingraham under first-year coach Dashawn Patrick, who shared the field with Ken Griffey, Jr. on the Bellingham Mariners rookie ball team in 1987. He played as Otis Patrick in those days.
Ingraham (14-8) beat Bishop Blanchet 13-5 Saturday to give the program its first state berth since 1979, continuing a restoration of athletic pride to the school. Last winter, the boys basketball team earned a state berth for the first time since 1975.
The baseball season has gone so well that it prompted a sincere thank-you text from senior Hayden Iacolucci to Patrick. The glow of qualifying for state and making the Metro League championship game against O’Dea Friday at 6 p.m. at Steve Cox Memorial Park was still fresh.
“I just wanted to say thank you again,” Iacolucci began a text Sunday to his coach. “You took us in late. We were honestly lost. You changed that. You turned my dream of state-bound for Ingraham High into a reality and words do not describe how much you mean to this school and us.
“You made us loved. And you turned us into something special.”
Patrick stepped into the last-minute opening left in mid-February when Geoff Brown took the coaching job at Bainbridge after two years leading the Rams.
Patrick has been the perfect blend of believer, motivator and teacher for the Rams.
“Nobody knew what to expect this year, especially when the new coach was named two days before tryouts,” said Zach Kogut, the Rams’ senior catcher. “Also, we were coming off a first-round (Metro League tournament) exit last year when last year was supposed to be our year. There was definitely some worry that this year was going to be a total wash.”
Ingraham was 15-5 last season, ending with a 2-0 loss to West Seattle in the first round of Metros.
“It’s awesome to extend the time together and make these memories,” Kogut said.
Patrick provided a fresh coat of paint, reviving players and equipment with new Ingraham blue.
“They are gritty,” said Patrick, who was thought to be the coach-in-waiting for longtime Jackson coach Kirk Nicholson and he was ready to return to his JV job with the Timberwolves before Ingraham’s last-minute opening. “They don’t give up. They don’t give in. They play seven innings harder than any team I’ve ever coached. You talk about making plays to the very end, that’s them.
“I’ve never coached a baseball team like these guys.”
Patrick has a pair of holdover assistant coaches from Brown’s tenure in James Robbins and Randy Jacobs, who have spent 27 years in the program. That allowed Patrick to bridge the gap from the past to the present.
The team isn’t full of standouts with the exception of junior pitcher Reilly McAdams, a University of Washington commit and ace of the Rams’ staff. McAdams (5-2, 1 save) has pitched 35 2/3 innings, allowing 20 hits and six earned runs while striking out 54.
Ethan Cramer leads the team with a .396 batting average and .456 on-base percentage. John Cake provides a .378 batting average and .467 on-base percentage while Iacolucci hits .383 with a .492 on-base percentage.
“I treat each kid indifferent to their stats,” Patrick said. “It’s about developing friendships and relationships that you can value and trust.”
The first week with the program, Patrick noticed empty water bottles and garbage in the locker room. In the equipment room, there were broken brooms and rakes, broken batting helmets and general disarray. The pitching mounds were uncared for and players were late to practices.
“I knew from that moment that this program was missing one thing … pride,” he said. “I don’t mean pride in how they play on the field. I mean taking pride in the little things that make championship programs great.”
Correction: A previous version of this story misspelled pitcher Reilly McAdams’ last name.