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5 storylines entering 2022 WIAA state baseball championship weekend: West Seattle's ace chasing Blake Snell's strikeout mark

Are league rivals Puyallup, Olympia on a 4A title crash course? Can anyone in 1A stop Cedar Park Christian? Where did this Kennewick team come from? Can Naselle win its program's first title?

State baseball is back.

For the first time since 2019, the WIAA will hold state high school baseball championships throughout the state, with Class 3A/4A at GESA Stadium in Pasco, Class 2A/1A at County Stadium in Yakima, and Class 2B/1B at the Ridgefield Outdoor Recreation Complex in Ridgefield. The semifinals take place Friday in all but 1B and the championship games are on Saturday. 

A lot has changed in the three years since the last spring state championships were held. Only one defending state champion is back in the final four. That's University Prep, who takes on league foe and state 1A favorite Cedar Park Christian Friday. 

Olympia, the top 4A seed, has a chance to surpass its state runner-up finish in 2019. The Bears reached the title on a walk-off double in 2019 then lost to Moses Lake.

Stay with SBLive on all weekend for coverage across the entire spring sports championship weekend. Follow us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.

Here are five storylines to watch this weekend:

WEST SEATTLE’S MILES GOSZTOLA GUNNING FOR BLAKE SNELL’S STRIKEOUT MARK

Gonzaga-bound junior Miles Gosztola celebrates an out during a dominant 2021-22 season on the bump.

Gonzaga-bound junior Miles Gosztola celebrates an out during a dominant 2021-22 season on the bump.

After Miles Gosztola committed to Gonzaga in September, West Seattle coach Dylan McLaughlin could sense the junior left-handed pitcher's focus sharpen intently on backing up his Division I billing.

"He said ‘I just don’t want to be a D-1 guy who commits and shouldn’t be there," McLaughlin said of his Wildcats' top arm. In Gosztola, McLaughlin has seen a hunger and competitive edge he hadn't previously.

He's a big part of a program turnaround after going 5-7 and 6-13 the previous two seasons. The Wildcats (24-1) are in position to compete for the program's first state title this weekend. They enter the Class 3A state semifinals  as the top seed overall.

(RELATED: Top 20 pitchers in the 2022 Washington high school baseball season)

Gosztola has struck out 115 batters and given up just two earned runs and 24 walks in 62 innings pitched. He's four strikeouts away from passing the single-season strikes mark of former Shorewood standout Blake Snell, now a pitcher with the Padres. And he's determined to pass it if he gets the call to start against 12-seeded Mercer Island on Friday at 7:15 p.m.

Snell threw 118 strikeouts in 56 innings with a 1.00 ERA as a senior in 2011. The 6-foot-4 left-hander committed to Washington but was drafted out high school in the first round. He spent five years in the minors, then went on to have an All-Star season, win the AL Cy Young Award and lead the AL in wins and ERA in 2018. 

"He knows about (Snell's mark)," McLaughlin said. "It's in the back of his head."

Snell's single-season strikes mark isn't believed to be the best of all-time. That according to former Liberty (Issaquah) coach and state baseball coaches association head Glen Walker was recorded by former Liberty pitcher Tim Linecum, who went on to become a four-time all-star, three-time World Series champion and two-time NL Cy Young Award winner. He threw a potentially-untouchable 183 strikeouts in 91 innings as a senior, according to Liberty team records.  

McLaughlin is an Enumclaw grad and local club coach who coached under Mercer Island's Dominic Woody (who he will face this weekend for the first time). And he was the first to see up close how special West Seattle's youth was as the coach of a dominant JV team. 

When the head varsity job opened up in the offseason, McLaughlin, a network engineer at Boeing, leapt at the opportunity in part because of how talented his up-and-comers were. He had no idea how quickly they would gel. 

PAIR OF ACES LEADING CEDAR PARK CHRISTIAN INTO FINAL WEEKEND

If a team not named Cedar Park Christian plans to hoist the 1A state trophy, it will need to get through the top seed's two golden arms.

Seniors right-handed pitchers Chris McLean and Justin Feld have been chopping down lineups unlike any other one-two punch in the state for the Eagles.

McLean, a right-handed commit to Division II Biola, entered the regional round with a 7-1 record, 0.522 ERA and 107 strikeouts with 16 walks. Feld’s line is just as impressive. The Tacoma CC-bound righty was 8-0 with a 0.151 ERA, 94 strikeouts and 14 walks.