When Squalicum’s David Stealy had his best stuff working, he was nearly unhittable.
Storm coach John Inge delivered those words about his pitching staff ace multiple times this season, and Stealy warranted the praise following most of his outings.
Stealy’s overall record wasn’t eye-popping, but there is no denying his value. Every time he took the mound he put the Storm in position to win.
And when Squalicum needed him most — whether it be on the mound, or at the plate or during the first round of the Class 2A State Tournament — the senior always seemed to engineer a clutch performance.
“He had a tremendous year,” Inge said in a phone interview. “He was our No. 1 guy on the bump and came through. He gave us good outings every time. He didn’t always win; he was 6-5 overall. But gosh, offensively he was probably our clutchest hitter. He had more big hits than anybody.”
Stealy finished with a 1.70 ERA during the regular season and logged 34 strikeouts in 41 innings pitched. He posted a 2.19 postseason ERA.
He batted .319 in the regular season and finished with 25 RBI, eight doubles, and 12 runs scored.
Squalicum’s 2015 club set several program firsts — the first Storm team to reach state, the first team to win a state regional and they set the final standard (third place at state) for all future Squalicum teams to measure up to.
Without Stealy’s consistent outings and big-time hits, surely this year’s success would have been much harder to attain.
“Our team, we knew we were going to be good coming into the season,” Stealy said in a phone interview. “We were pretty good last year but didn’t quite end the way we wanted to. Most of us have been playing together since we were like 12. We knew we were going to be good, and it finally paid off.”
Stealy has been selected The Bellingham Herald’s All-Whatcom County Baseball Player of Year, while Storm coach John Inge, who led Squalicum during its history-making season, has been selected Coach of the Year.
While Stealy’s pitching arsenal was effective, his stuff wasn’t the league’s best. What made the Squalicum ace so good was how intelligently he pitched combined with the ability to command his fastball and curveball.
Stealy, with the assistance of catcher Ben Tripp, was crafty in his approach to hitters. Often, he would pitch backward, starting a batter off with back-to-back curveballs before freezing him with a high fastball.
He was a master of changing eye levels, and he kept hitters off-balance.
“It was a combination of his guile and the good command of his fastball and curveball and working with Ben Tripp,” Inge said. “He’s got good stuff, he’s a competitor and he’s a smart pitcher. You put it all together and you have one heck of a pitcher.”
And Stealy saved some of his best performances for Squalicum’s most important games.
Inge believed Stealy’s best outing came during a complete-game, three-hit shutout of Burlington-Edison during a midseason league contest. Stealy struck out seven, walked none and outdueled Tigers ace Drew Larson.
But to Stealy, his complete game shutout over Sequim in the Class 2A State Tournament opener was his most meaningful performance.
The senior right-hander gave up five hits, struck out six and walked none.
“The win moved us on to Anacortes and gave us momentum moving forward,” Stealy said. “That was our first state tournament win, and that was a huge win for us.”
A moment never seemed too big for Stealy, who pitched with stoic confidence.
He was cool enough to bounce back with a strikeout after giving up a big hit and so comfortable on the mound that during the district tournament he fielded a hard-hit comebacker, then paused to wipe his brow before throwing the ball over to first, eliciting a surprised reaction from the crowd watching the game.
“He is kind of stoned faced,” Inge said. “He is pretty quiet, but super serious between the lines. Every so often I will say, ‘David, smile.’ It’s a little joke we have, and he’ll give me a half smile, because he is always so serious. But between the lines, he is all business.”
And’s the Storm’s business man delivered on time, again and again.
Stealy’s Squalicum career has come to a close, but he’ll be playing for Skagit Community College next season.
Reach Andrew Lang at 360-756-2862 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Sports Blog at bellinghamherald.com/sports-blog. Follow him on Twitter at @BhamSports and on Facebook at WhatcomCountySports.
Athletes of the Year
For the 10th year, the Bellingham Herald is proud to celebrate Whatcom County high school student athletes with its All-Whatcom County teams. A look back at the athletes selected All-Whatcom County Softball Players of the Year:
2006: Jake Locker, Ferndale
2007: Jordan Chambers, Sehome
2008: Jared Vera, Sehome
2009: Casey Locker, Ferndale
2010: Anthony Pitsch, Sehome
2011: John Albert, Sehome
2012: Jordan Kreider, Lynden
2013: Tanner Olson, Lynden
2014: Jordan Wittenburg, Lynden
2015: David Stealy, Squalicum
Player of the YearDavid Stealy
What he did: Had everything a team would want in a true ace and proved to be one of top pitchers in all of the Northwest Conference. ... A clutch hitter batting out of the cleanup spot and played a solid outfield, too. ... Finished with a 4-3 record and 34 strikeouts with a 1.70 ERA in 41 innings pitched, mostly facing top tier NWC competition. ... Was 2-2 in the postseason with a 2.19 ERA, including a state opening-round complete-game shutout of Sequim. ... Hit for .319 average with 18 RBI and five doubles. ... Led Squalicum to a third-place state finish, a regional state title and a 21-7 record.