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DeSales' Joe Baffney is SBLive's WaFd Bank Class 1B Senior Athlete of the Year

An all-1B Southeast League first-team selection in football, basketball and baseball, Baffney led each team to state playoffs his senior year

Welcome to a continuing tradition at SBLive Washington – honoring the WaFd Bank 2022-23 senior male and female athletes of the year for each classification.

Because the SBLive crew gets so immersed in specific sports seasons, it is nice to take a step back to pick a statewide honor from a broader perspective.

The criteria isn’t too expansive: The starting point is finding seniors who are all-league/all-state performers in two or more sports. Totality of career is also a factor. So is administrator/coach/fan recommendation.

Enjoy as we honor some of Washington’s top multi-sport senior athletes!

Joe Baffney, DeSales, 2023 Washington 1B Athlete of the Year

Before he even got to high school, Joe Baffney knew eyes would immediately be on him.

After all, the football field at DeSales is named after his late father, Ty, who died when Joe was still a baby.

"It was one of the most exciting things all four years for me," Baffney said of playing on the field. "I loved it every time I stepped on the field."

Baffney made the most of his time on it as a four-year varsity letter winner in football. He was team captain the last two seasons, and was an 1B Southeast all-league selection at quarterback and linebacker his senior year.

This past season, Baffney and the Irish didn't lose a single game at home.

Feeling like he had been living in his father's shadow most of his life, Baffney said it was satisfying to break out in high school and establish his name with his own accomplishments.

"It's nice to be my own person now," Baffney said.

A three-sport standout at DeSales playing football, basketball and baseball, Baffney's decorated career came to a close this spring with the Irish baseball team finishing fourth in the Class 1B state tournament.

When it came to all three sports, Baffney couldn't pick a favorite.

"I love every sport equally, pretty much," he said. "It was hard for me to choose which sport I wanted to go on and play in college."

Baffney ultimately chose football as he'll head to Whitworth University in the fall.

Eric Wood, Baffney's stepfather who the teenager proudly calls dad, not only coached him in youth sports, but also on the DeSales basketball team.

Baffney's youth included a trip to the Little League World Series when he was a sixth-grader - with Wood as his baseball coach.

Wood said the two have formed a special bond through sports.

"Coaching your son is not always the easiest thing, but he's made me a better coach in how to deal with different types of athletes and how they're motivated," Wood said.

When it came to the hardwood at DeSales, Wood said Baffney was always one to lead by example.

"If he wasn't on the floor diving for balls, getting tips, deflections, rebounds, all the little things that don't show up a ton in the scorebook, but go a long way for the team – he was the epitome of that," Wood said. "He was very instrumental in our success and building the foundation for our program."


Joe Baffney, DeSales, 2023 Washington 1B Athlete of the Year


School: DeSales Catholic.

Sports: Football, basketball, baseball.

Next step: Signed to play football at Whitworth University (NCAA D3) where he will study health sciences.

Senior-year highlights: Voted first team 1B Southeast all-league quarterback and linebacker and was team's most valuable player for the second consecutive season. DeSales reached the state quarterfinals in football. Finished the season with 1,203 yards passing, 24 passing touchdowns, 967 yards rushing and 16 rushing scores. ... The basketball team placed third at state, its highest finish in school history, in a season where he averaged 9.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 3.4 deflections and 2.7 steals per game. ... The baseball team finished fourth in state. Baffney had a batting average of .557 (on-base percentage was 695) - with 24 hits, 15 RBI, 25 runs scored and 46 stolen bases. His fielding percentage at shortstop was .957. ... The football, basketball and baseball teams went a combined 27-0 at home in 2022-23.

Career accomplishments: Five-year varsity letter winner in baseball (DeSales allows eighth graders to play on varsity teams) and a team captain as a sophomore, junior and senior. Set a single-season school record of 46 stolen bases in 2023. First-team 1B Southeast League as a junior and senior, plus offensive player of the year as a junior. ... Four-year varsity letter winner in football and first-team quarterback as a junior and senior. First-team linebacker as a senior. ... Four-year varsity letter winner in basketball, including two-year team captain as a junior and senior. First-team all league as a senior. WIAA 1B tournament qualifier as a junior, and third-place finisher as a senior. 

School/community achievements: 3.6 GPA at DeSales, 4.0 GPA in Walla Walla Community College's "Running Start" program; National Honor Society member for four years; Honor roll or President's List all four years; volunteer for local Challengers program (baseball for youth with disabilities); volunteer for yearly school fundraisers such as the Sausage Festival and HOPE events; active member in Assumption Parish helping with Sunday Children's Liturgy; St. Sebastian award for being a four-year, three-sport athlete, 2023 Booster Athletic Scholarship ($500); DR. H.A. Trippeer Charitable Foundation Scholarship ($6,000).