Photo Credit: Jake Davis

The Selah Vikings Baseball Program is undoubtedly one of the top sports programs in the entire Yakima Valley.

Over the past five years, the team has accumulated five straight state playoff appearances, and a record of 112-10 (.918 win percentage) during that span.

Led by local legend head coach Mike Archer, the Vikings will be returning the Final Four for the first time since 2017. They were able to get back to the ‘Big Dance’ by knocking off North Kitsap and Ellensburg in the preliminary rounds.

Whether or not you are a Selah Baseball fan, this is a team you’ll want to keep track of as they chase a state title this weekend at County Stadium.

There’s a lot to be excited about with this group. Here are seven things you need to know before the Selah Vikings head to the Final Four.

The Entire Pitching Staff Has Been Shutdown

To describe Selah’s pitching staff as elite would simply be underselling what they’ve accomplished this year.

Through 24 games, the entire group is sporting an astounding 0.78 ERA.

It’s almost an unfathomable number, especially when you factor in the top level competition they’ve faced.

Their schedule included four games against the defending state champs Ellensburg Bulldogs (they were only able to muster 5 total runs).

Also they faced off against defending 3A state champs Southridge, number one ranked Lakeside (1A), and conference rival East valley.

A Selah ace to look out for this weekend is senior right-hander Dylan Bishop. The Whitworth commit is not allowing himself to be surprised by his team’s success.

“I believe that our defense is great,” Bishop said. “Our pitching staff with me, Payton Andreas, and Nick Garretson are very solid. I can see why our ERA is under one.”

It’s worth noting that this has all been accomplished without possibly the best pitcher in the Yakima Valley, Reid Rasmussen. The 3-time All Leaguer has been out this entire season following elbow surgery.

Picking up his lost production has been veteran starter Payton Andreas. The flame-throwing southpaw has allowed just one earned run all season.

If Selah is to win a state title, it may be because of the arms they roll out this weekend.

Catcher Dean Pettyjohn Is An Ironman Contributor

The catcher position is by far the most physically demanding position in all of baseball.

Their responsibilities include crouching down inning after inning, while also calling out pitches and plays for the defense. It’s both physically and mentally demanding.

Sophomore sensation Dean Pettyjohn has caught over 150 innings this year, and he’s enjoyed every moment of it.

“It’s nice knowing that I have a role on the team,” Pettyjohn said. “I know my role is catching, and doing my best job at it.”

Pettyjohn has been a workhorse this year (Photo Credit: MIchelle Sauve)

What makes Pettyjohn’s situation unique is catching is literally all he does. Despite playing in 24 games, he’s only had three at-bats.

Such is the life of a ‘designated fielder.’ Pettyjohn’s job is to strictly to play gold glove level defense. Similar to the pitcher getting ‘DH’d’ for in MLB, a more productive bat takes his spot in the order.

“Over time I kinda started knowing that Caden Herbst was hitting better than me in practices, and I realized it was better for the team if he was hitting,” Pettyjohn said.

They say baseball is a thinking person’s game, and using Pettyjohn for his catching prowess is just another war strategy in Selah’s push for a title.

Nate Gutierrez Has Been An Unexpected All Star

A player that’s absolutely burst onto the scene this year for the Vikings has been their right fielder Nate Gutierrez.

Right now he’s a major source of production in the middle of the order, hitting .404 with 17 RBI. He’s also sporting a dandy 1.02 ERA, as well as near perfect outfield defense.

While Gutierrez was raised in the Selah Baseball system, it was prior to his freshman year that his family moved to Yakima. Because of the move, Gutierrez had to enroll in Eisenhower.

His first two years of playing Ike Baseball were solid, but not spectacular. It was following his sophomore year that Gutierrez knew it was time to make a change.

“My older brother (Fabian Gutierrez) played under Coach [Mike] Archer, and he loved it,” Gutierrez said. “When I showed up, Archer showed me everything. With the support of everyone around me, it was an easy transition.”

After earning a starting spot this past off-season, Gutierrez has more than proven to be worth the hype. This is a player you’ll want to watch closely this weekend, and also next season as well.

The Bottom Of The Lineup Is Producing

Here are the batting averages for the last 3 hitters in Selah’s lineup: Nick Garretson (.377), Chase Ergeson (.269), and Caden Herbst (.333).

That’s an astounding .326 average from a part of the lineup that most teams are just hoping they all stay above the ‘Mendoza Line’ (.200 average).

If you put those three guys on 95% of teams in the state, it’s likely they’re leading off or batting in the heart of the order.

But of course, batting at the bottom of the lineup is still a privilege, and that’s especially true in a program like Selah.

“For the past 30 years, Selah’s been one of the toughest programs in the state,” Selah first basemen Nick Garretson said. “So being able to say I’m a starter in that is a pretty cool thing.”

The biggest benefit to having such big time bats at the bottom of the lineup? It allows for rallies to catch fire when the lineup turns over.

With All Star talent like Dylan Bishop (.338), Payton Andreas (.411), and Carter Young (.423) following the bottom of the order, it’s no wonder why Selah can blow games open in a single inning.

They’re Unlike Other Teams In The Final Four

In the semi-finals of the state tournament, Selah is scheduled to square off with Archbishop Murphy. It’s a private school based in Everett, Washington.

The two schools on the other side of the bracket are based on the Westside in Sehome High School and Fife High School.

A casual observer might believe that one of the Westside schools should be the favorite this weekend. Whether it’s because of their private school status, or close proximity to Seattle.

This is not the case at all however. Selah is actually the consensus number one overall team in the state, according to rankings like MaxPreps and ScoreCzar.

The Vikings don’t see themselves as underdogs in the slightest, no matter who they face off against.

“Our coaches went out and scouted those three teams,” head coach Mike Archer said. “Then you have some contacts that you get a hold of. But number one is we need to take care of ourselves.”

Even though Selah is not the defending champs, they are still going to have a huge target on their back come Friday at County Stadium.

Selah's 2019 Infield (left to right: Dylan Bishop, Carter Young, Brandon Bruner, Nick Garretson) Photo Credit: Phil Young

Selah’s Baseball Culture Is As Good As Any

There are some towns that are simply known for the sport they excel at. Some local examples include Zillah Basketball, Royal Football, and Prosser Football.

But as good as the other sports programs at Selah are, you can make an extremely strong case that baseball success is what this town is best known for.

“I think the culture and expectations of all the kids that have come before, I think these guys feel the pressure to win,” Archer said. “It’s a game, but the goal is to win. Winning is fun, and losing isn’t.”

It all starts at practice for this group, where intensity is high, and players are hungry to compete and improve.

The program is run like a college program, and that level of dedication is what allows Selah to continue to crank out 25 win seasons.

This Year’s Group Has An Undeniable Bond

The motto for this team all year has been to play for each other, and not for yourself.

Often times when you have a team full of all stars like Selah does, egos can clash and it can tear down any hope for a championship. That is absolutely not happening with this group.

The chemistry is impeccable right now, and a large reason for that is the fact that nearly all of these players have been playing together since their little league days.

This year’s senior class, including Dylan Bishop, Carter Young, Nick Garretson, Payton Andreas, Dante Collett, Colten Hart, and Sebastian Ernst have been playing on the same teams together for over a decade.

They’ve had some might success along the way. When this group was 14 years old, they won a little league juniors state championship.

Nine current Selah Vikings were apart of the 14U Team that won a Juniors State Championship (Photo Credit: Brenda Bruner)

A cool memory for Payton Andreas was camping out with his teammates at out of state baseball tournaments.

“Instead of staying in hotels, everyone would bring their trailer and we’d all get camping spots next to each other,” Andreas said. “Every night we’d make a big dinner and reflect on the day of baseball.”

It’s one thing to simply have a talented roster, it’s a whole 'nother thing to have a decade plus of experience playing next to the same guys.

This team badly wants to finish their last year playing together by holding up a state championship trophy.

What’s Next

Selah will be the only baseball team representing the Yakima Valley in the Final Four this year, making this an easy team for the whole community to get behind.

You can catch them in the semi-finals this Friday at 7pm at County Stadium in Yakima. They will be facing off against the Archbishop Murphy Wildcats.

Should the Vikings be victorious in that match-up, they’ll face the winner of Sehome and Fife in the State Championship. That game would take place this Saturday at 7pm at County Stadium.

If you’re unable to make it out to the ballpark for either of those games, you can read recaps of each night’s action right here on 1460ESPNYakima.com.

For updates on the Yakima Valley Baseball Scene, follow Micah Chen on Twitter @micah_chen