Four months after being forced to consider the possibility that his high school baseball career could be over, Mike Andrick is now dreaming of a much more desirable scenario.
"All I want," Andrick said, "is to be right in the middle of another dog pile."
That’s the position the Washington senior was in last year, when Andrick pitched the Eagles to a 16-4 win over Lowell in the San Francisco Section championship game. But as the two teams get ready to play for another title today at 3:30 p.m. at AT&T Park, last season’s Academic Athletic Association Co-Pitcher of the Year is thankfulto even be on the field.
Andrick tweaked his back while lifting weights this fall in preparation for the season and had the injury compounded when an alleged hit-and-run driver clipped the car he was in on New Year’s Eve. An MRI exam after the accident revealed a bulging disk, leaving Andrick with a long road of physical therapy ahead and an uncertain return date while simultaneously shaking the confidence of the defending champs.
"I was definitely down in the beginning and I saw the guys were a little down," Andrick said. "But I’m so proud of how they stepped up [while I was out]. And I had a feeling I could make an appearance late in the season."
Andrick made his debut April 25 against Galileo, and while he is still getting his timing back at the plate (he has three hits in 15 at-bats), Eagles coach Rob Fung said he has been "lights-out" on the mound. The right-hander has yet to allow a run in two appearances, and is available to come out of the bullpen for one, two or even three innings in today’s game.
"Before the season, I looked at Mike as being the best player in the league," Fung said. "And getting him back was huge. It definitely gave the kids a lift."
As a junior, Andrick went 7-3 with a 3.46 ERA and featured a fastball that was clocked last year at 88 mph — and the right-hander said he is now throwing harder than ever. He hit .447 with four home runs, 39 RBIs and a team-high 43 runs scored in 2006, and his return to the cleanup spot in the lineup has made the already imposing O’Koyea Dickson even more dangerous in the No. 3 hole.
"Getting him back is huge for us," Dickson said. "And it’s definitely given me some more good pitches to hit, which is great."
Andrick said he is leaning toward continuing his career as a pitcher and shortstop next year at the College of San Mateo. But right now, he’s more concerned with Lowell.
"They’re a whole new team from last year — we’re definitely not overlooking them," Andrick said. "And we’re just all so grateful for the opportunity to play at AT&T."
SAN FRANCISCO SECTION CHAMPIONSHIP
WHO: Washington (22-11) vs. Lowell (22-9)
WHEN: Today, 3:30 p.m.
WHERE: AT&T Park