Head coach Brent Lutz describes Mount Si’s baseball team as a tight-knit brotherhood. Ask for an example, and he’ll tell you about the rainbow.
It was March 15 — a Tuesday — and Lutz recalls looking toward center field and seeing the team lined up, arms around one another with two rainbows hanging above them. From his view, each end touched a players’ head.
Earlier that day, the team convened for a meeting, where they were handed news that Victoria Gerlitz, the mother of senior second baseman Ryan Gerlitz and presence in many of their lives, died after a three-year battle with breast cancer. She was 49.
It happened the morning of the team’s season opener at home against Bellevue. The team had planned to honor her in some way, but the unplanned moment with the rainbow unfolded, unbeknownst to them.
"I’ll be honest, I started crying at home plate," Lutz said. I was like, 'Alright, we’re done,' and walked off.
"(The team) rallied. She was there in spirit. We knew she was there. And she helped us get that first win."
Since the 8-1 season-opening win, her spirit has carried Mount Si through the 4A KingCo season and into the playoffs. The Wildcats (16-7) qualified for the WIAA state tournament as a 13-seed and face 4-seed Richland in the first round Saturday at Richland High School.
It’s the first time anyone on the team has played in the postseason. Mount Si didn’t qualify in 2019 - and the scheduled 2020 and 2021 playoffs were cancelled due to COVID-19.
Through it all, the team has been a respite for Ryan Gerlitz. Through his grieving, he’s been one of the team’s strengths. His .376 batting average and 32 hits are both team-highs, and he’s a standout in the middle of the team’s defense.
"It meant a lot to our family personally," Ryan Gerlitz said. "It doesn’t surprise me because I know how those guys are, they want to support me in any way they could. And just seeing them go out and get that win and do it for my mom, it was a very special thing - something I’ll always remembers, something I’ll always appreciate and love them for doing."
Given the option to postpone the team’s home opener in her honor, Mount Si players were faced with the choice. There were no wrong answers, Lutz told them.
"They all agreed, 'Vic — Mrs. Gerlitz — would be really upset if we don’t play tonight,'" Lutz said. "So, they dedicated the game to her and the family and played for their brother, because they knew Ryan would want that too."
Ryan Gertliz’s mother’s battle with cancer is deeply intertwined with his own. When he was a ninth grader, a germ cell tumor elapsed his right lung. He underwent six rounds of chemotherapy at Seattle Children’s Hospital and a chest surgery to remove the tumor.
The operation meant he was cancer-free. But eight hours after doctors confirmed it, he got news of his mom’s Stage 4 diagnosis.
“That good news completely went out of the window,” Ryan Gerlitz said. “Me being cancer free didn't matter anymore. Because I was my mom. And you know, it was it was absolutely heartbreaking in that moment.”
Through Ryan’s treatment, his parents never left his side — even after the cancer came back and he underwent another four months of stem cell therapy. He never recalls being in a hospital room alone.
The Snoqualmie community flooded his family with support, too.
"It was something I really never expected or thought was possible because of the multiple people, whole community reaching out supporting my family in any way they could," Gerlitz, who hopes to walk on to Washington State University's baseball team, said. "I was getting a ton of texts."
On senior night in May, players and coaches each placed pink roses in a vase on the mound and gave it to Ryan’s father, Michael Gertliz, and sister, Bella Gerlitz. The public address announced Vic Gerlitz as the honorary first-pitch thrower and the ballpark fell to a moment of silence.
"I’ve always felt the love and support from my teammates," Ryan Gerlitz said. "I think it definitely could have played a role in bringing us together. The support from them, my coaching staff, my community, I’m extremely grateful to have them. It’s definitely made the process a lot easier."
--Andy Buhler; @AndyBuhler.
All photos courtesy of Mount Si baseball.