Pitcher Ryan Mets turned in many impressive performances during his high school career at North Thurston, but his first varsity start as a freshman in 2011 was not one of them.
Mets, The Olympian’s All-Area Baseball Player of the Year headed for Oregon State, credits that first start of 11/3 innings — eight earned runs on seven hits in an 11-1 loss to Aberdeen — as a turning point.
After the game, coach Lance Baker demoted Mets to junior varsity. It’s a decision Mets now fully supports because it made him realize that it would take more than physical talent to get batters out. Mets said he became more dedicated in the weight room and to preparing mentally.
“Who would’ve thought that was the perfect scenario for me to be the best player I can be?” Mets said. “I owe a lot to (Baker). My mental approached totally changed. It became so much more than a game.”
This year, Mets played the game at an elite level, helping the Rams win the 3A Narrows League title and earn a berth into the 3A regionals for the third straight year. He compiled a 1.75 ERA in 72 innings, struck out 134 and hit .308 with 18 RBIs. He was named the 3A Narrows League MVP.
While Baker said it’s uncertain where Mets’ single-season strikeout number ranks in program history, he noted no other player he coached at North Thurston had as many strikeouts in a season as Mets.
“He’s grown up from a young boy into a young man in four years,” said Baker, who recently resigned after nine seasons coaching the Rams.
While pitching in front of major league scouts in almost every start, Mets threw a no-hitter, posted double-digit strikeouts in six games, and did not give up an earned run in 11 of the 12 league games.
Mets, known for his curveball and a high-80 mph fastball, said he thrives on pressure.
“I’d rather have the ball in my court than someone else,” Mets said.
Olympia coach Steve Roth said Mets’ competitive nature is what elevates him. He got a firsthand look at Mets during an all-state feeder game at Bellarmine Prep a week after the season ended.
One play in particular stood out. Mets made an impressive unassisted, inning-ending double play at first base.
“He knows every aspect of the game,” Roth said. “He’s a top-tier kid who has the motor ... and has so much upside.”
Mets joins an Oregon State program that won back-to-back College World Series titles in 2006-07, and has produced 64 major league draftees, including 31 pitchers.
Baker said as long as Mets remains healthy, the potential is endless.
“Look out when he gets into that age of 20-years-old,” he said.