Sports

Eagles thinking big as new season begins

Klahowya’s Kurtis Pitcher fires a pitch toward the plate during Saturday’s jamboree game against Bremerton. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Klahowya’s Kurtis Pitcher fires a pitch toward the plate during Saturday’s jamboree game against Bremerton.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

By AARON MANAGHAN

Sports editor

After getting a taste of state a year ago, the Klahowya Eagles are eager to get back.

Part of that is wanting to continue to establish the school’s baseball program among the state’s competitive programs. But mostly it’s to wash the taste of last year’s 13-2 drubbing at the hands of eventual champs Sehome out of their mouths.

“I think making it to state was just a little taste,” Klahowya second-year coach David Neet said. “It showed us how much work you really have to do. We got thumped against a very good team. If we want to compete with those teams, from day one we have to practice like we play.”

So far that hasn’t been a problem.

“The kids are excited,” Neet said. “We’ve done some team-building. They’re going into practice wanting to learn and wanting to be a better team.”

Pitching will be the top attribute for the Eagles this season, beginning with reliable righty Rusty Devitt, ranked No. 16 for the state of Washington’s class of 2008.

Devitt, who struck out 56 batters in 34 innings last year, will be joined by Eric Eley on the hill.

“Our pitching game should be solid,” Neet said. “They’re gonna be our backbone this year.”

And while having that combo at the top of the order is nice, Neet said they won’t be Klahowya’s only hurlers this season, as lefty Kurtis Pitcher should figure in and Seth Green, the team’s regular catcher, will fill the closer role.

“Having a nice one-two punch like that, you can really live or die on that,” Neet said. “Those two kids are gonna give you some deep innings. When you’ve got kids like that, sometimes it goes into autodrive. But one of the goals this year is to quietly work other guys in without affecting the chemistry.”

Offensively, the team returns much of the youth that advanced them to state a year ago. Jordan Green, fulfilling the team captain role alongside Devitt, returns to center field again this season as perhaps the teams most complete player.

“Jordan is solid all the way around,” Neet said. “Our team really looks to him on offense and defense.”

Eley’s bat will be big again, as will Devitt’s. But others will factor in as well, like Darell Newman, in his first year at Klahowya after transferring from North Mason.

“Beautiful pickup,” Neet said of Newman. “Great family. He’s a good student of the game. He’s a sponge.”

Tony Livick is another who gives Neet some options in the lineup.

“He had a great bat for us last year,” he said. “He’s a senior and a good leader on the team.”

Another senior, outfielder Gene Armendariz, has seen numerous improvements to his game, Neet said.

“He’s improved this year,” he said. “It’s hard work and some found confidence in his game.”

That’s far from all the Eagles have, however, as Brandon Neet, Jeff Jaeckel, Jeff Kenison, Joe Sawyers, Kyle Monroe and Kyle Jacobs also will figure in.

“And we should have a solid bench all the way around,” Neet added.

With large numbers turning out, Neet said for the first time in a long time, Klahowya had to cut some players. The increase in numbers also means the Eagles won’t carry a freshman on the varsity roster.

And while the core of the team returns with a bulk of experience as a result, Neet said his Eagles will have to prioritize if they want to achieve more than they did a year ago.

“I think they saw how good you have to be to advance past that first round,” he said, referring to last year’s loss to Sehome. “But first we’ve got to play in a tough Olympic League.”

The Eagles figure to be among the top of the 2A heap in the Oly League, but Neet said anything can happen this year.

“There’s a lot of teams that are young with talent,” he said. “I think it’s gonna be tighter than people expect.”

And while it will be close, Neet said he expects his team to be among the playoff competitors again if the Eagles continue to work hard on and off the field.

“For me, that last out at Sehome started my first thought for this season,” Neet said. “I just want us to be in a better position going into state. The only way that’s going to happen is a lot of hard work.”

The Eagles traveled to Chimacum Monday to open the season but results were unavailable at press time. Klahowya hits the road again to take on Elma at 3:30 p.m. Thursday.

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