Snohomish County sports
Brothers stick with the home team
Special to The Seattle Times
Brent and Kiel Lillibridge, brothers and University of Washington baseball teammates, teamed up to give their father an impressive birthday present this month.
Brent, a junior shortstop, crashed a grand-slam homer in the fifth inning of a March 9 victory over Pacific University. He was replaced by Kiel, a freshman, who hit a two-out, two-run homer in the eighth as their father, Curt Lillibridge, watched from the stands.
"I'd kept forgetting I needed to get him a card," Kiel said. "I guess I decided it was just easier to hit a home run. I said, 'Here's your card.' "
Fortunately for Dad — and the UW program — the long-ball exploits weren't delivered by long distance from Arizona or California. Getting the former standouts from Jackson High School in Mill Creek to play baseball for Washington turned out to be something of a double gift for the Huskies.
"I was really interested for a while in going out of state," said Brent, 21, a four-year letterman and three-time All-WesCo South selection at Jackson. "Arizona and Loyola-Marymount [of California] were two of the three I was looking at. Basically, I wanted good weather year-round."
Kiel, 19, also sought year-round baseball weather when he first considered a college after two All-WesCo South seasons and a Class 4A state tournament trip. Like Brent, he was recruited by Loyola-Marymount, among others. And as a shortstop, he would be stuck behind his brother for playing time at the UW.
"He may not want to admit it, but everywhere we've played together, he's been the little brother," Brent said. "We all want to take over for ourselves, and in high school he took over and got his team to state. That's something I didn't even do."
But then Kiel turned around and did something Brent had already done: signed on with the Huskies.
"It was never planned like that," Kiel said of joining Brent in Huskies purple. "I mean, it's always been fun to play together, and it's nice to have a brother on the same team. But it was never something we talked about growing up."
For the two oldest of Curt and Leslie Lillibridge's four sons, their choice of the UW came down to two factors: the Huskies' emergence as one of the top Division I teams in the nation and the chance to play close to home, before family and friends.
Washington has bounced back from a rough start to win 13 of its past 17 games and was 16-10 through Monday.
"Other than Arizona, some of the smaller schools I looked at weren't going to play the kind of teams we play here. And I wanted to be exposed to the best," Brent said. "It was a chance to be in a program that was getting better and getting exposure nationally."
As a freshman, Brent was blocked from the starting shortstop job by a returning veteran. But his strong play led the coaching staff to move him to center field. That led to one of the best freshman seasons in UW history.
The 5-foot-11 185-pounder batted .388 with 47 runs batted in and set a UW freshman record with 13 home runs. His .669 slugging percentage was tops in the nation among freshmen, and he earned several postseason honors and a spot on the USA Baseball national team.
Last year, he batted .317 with 11 home runs, earning first-team All-Pac-10 honors for the second straight season. This year, he's batting .303, with a team-high 28 RBI, 27 runs and 16 extra-base hits, and is tied for the team lead with six home runs.
Kiel, at 5 feet 8 and 155 pounds, is a slightly smaller version of Brent, and the two have similar styles, including surprising power for players of their size. After going 2-for-2 Monday, he is batting .833, with five hits in six at-bats this season.
He is still working for the chance to put up the kinds of numbers his brother has accumulated. That chance could get a boost if Brent is drafted and signs a pro contract later this spring.
"In my first month here, I learned more about baseball than I had in my life," Kiel said. "Hopefully, I can come in and start at shortstop next year. But you can't come in expecting anything at this level."
Huskies coach Ken Knutson is glad both looked past Seattle's rainy weather to attend the UW.
"We haven't been rained out in three years," Knutson said with a slight smile. "I really think it speaks to kids having a positive experience, though. You wouldn't tell your brother to come somewhere you're not having fun."
Brewe ends long run
Quinn Brewe, a 2004 graduate of Meadowdale High School in Lynnwood, may not turn to distance running anytime soon. But she has gone as far as a player can go on the basketball court for two straight seasons.
After leading Meadowdale to the Class 3A girls state championship as a senior, Brewe, a 6-foot-1 forward, helped Seattle Pacific University to the NCAA Division II national title game before the Falcons suffered a 70-53 loss to Washburn (Kan.) University on Saturday in Hot Springs, Ark.
"It wasn't quite the same kind of ending I had last year, but it was still an awesome experience," said Brewe, a freshman who averaged 5.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game as a reserve. "It's definitely a habit I could get used to."
She was named The Seattle Times' Girls High School Player of the Year after helping Meadowdale to a 26-1 record.
"If we had some more games, I'd be ready, but I think I'll take about a week off before I get back to work," she said. "I'm ready for a rest."
Seattle Times Assistant Sports Editor Don Shelton contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company