Team Recognition

Wilson High School (1977) State Championship Baseball Team

The Wilson High School baseball team of 1977 used a combination of great talent and solid coaching to make a run all the way to the 4A state championship.

The Rams, under the guidance of head coach Bob Lightfoot, first had to overcome the tough competition in Tacoma and Pierce County.

Wilson finished the league season with a 12-3 record and won the league title with a heart-stopping 4-3 victory over Mt. Tahoma. Jim Koenig scored the winning run on Tab Lively's suicide squeeze bunt in the top of the seventh inning after Mike Wiese had driven in two runs to tie the game in the fifth inning. Mike Maxwell, the unquestioned pitching ace for Wilson, struck out nine T-birds batters in securing his eighth win of the season against no losses. The Rams defeated Mt. Tahoma pitcher Mike Gerk, who had thrown a no-hitter against them in March.

Another 4-3 score in the regional semifinals against Clover Park kept intact Wilson's run to the title. Henry Bender, the clean-up hitter with long-ball power, led off the decisive seventh inning rally with a bunt single. He moved to second on Mike Cheeseman's sacrifice bunt and scored the winning run on Ken Lamb's single. Maxwell improved to 9-0, striking out 10 and allowing just four hits.

In the regional final, the Rams beat highly ranked Federal Way, 5-1, as Alan Stoops matched Maxwell's semifinal numbers. Brian Sonneman and Bender drove in all of the runs with two hits apiece.

That win sent the Rams to a state semifinal date against Lake Washington at historic Sick's Seattle Stadium. The Redmond-area school was no match for a Wilson team that rolled to an 11-4 victory. Sonneman set the table for the big sluggers, reaching base five times and scoring four runs. Bender drove in five runs with a triple and double in support of Maxwell, who won the game to finish the season with a perfect 10-0 record.

The state championship game between Wilson and Redmond at Sick's Stadium - the final game ever played at the venerable ball yard - was a thriller that was decided in the final inning. Stoops took the hill for Wilson, while Redmond countered with Tom Niedenfurer, later to become an ace reliever for the Los Angeles Dodgers. With the score tied at 5-5 and Lamb at third base, Lively, the Rams' tough third baseman, squared around on a suicide squeeze attempt. Niedenfurer delivered a pitch high and outside, not allowing Lively an opportunity to bunt the ball, but the speedy Lamb had a great jump and ended up stealing home for the deciding run. Dennis Randall made two outstanding catches in rightfield for the Rams, who got at least one hit from each starter.

    Individual player stats reinforced the state title claim posted by this Wilson High team:
  • Mike Maxwell finished the season 10-0 with a 1.27 earned run average and 89 strikeouts;
  • Henry Bender hit five homers, threw out 24 base stealers and was drafted in the second round by the Seattle Mariners, right behind David Henderson;
  • Brian Sonneman, who hadn't played school baseball for three years, led the team with a .360 average, while patrolling centerfield for the Rams;
  • Fred Minnitti was as sure-handed a second baseman as you could want, handling 112 total chances without an error;
  • Jim Koenig, the shortstop, teamed with Minnitti to lead the league in double plays;
  • Ken Lamb, the only junior in the lineup and a a speedster who covered lots of ground in leftfield, led the league in outfield assists.
  • Rich Rhoads, a reserve outfielder played a key role as a late-inning defensive replacement.
  • Tab Lively, considered one of the toughest third basemen in the league, played with a fierceness and never-give-in style of play that became a hallmark of the Rams.

Following the season, Wilson was ranked by one prep magazine as the sixth-best high school baseball team in the country.