Sports

Offense is name of Central Kitsap’s game

By AARON MANAGHAN

Sports editor

Central Kitsap baseball coach Bill Baxter was encouraged by what he saw out of his team at the season-opening jamboree with Klahowya and Bremerton on Saturday.

While the unofficial three-inning contests don’t count in the standings, Baxter was pleased with his team’s 8-0 and 9-1 wins against the Knights and Eagles, respectively.

“I thought we did a great job hitting the baseball today,” Baxter said.

That was key, he added, as CK will need its bats to do most of the team’s talking this season.

“I think we’re gonna have to (score a lot),” Baxter said. “If you look through the lineup, we’re pretty young. We’re gonna need to score runs. We don’t have David Stilley to get 10 strikeouts for us, get us out of jams.”

With the departures of both Stilley (now at Washington State University) and KJ McLean to graduation, CK will use a committee approach to its pitching staff, with six to eight players that could see mound time this season. That includes guys like Casey Bohlman, Glen Hewey, Nate Roberts and Drew Vettleson. Even lauded senior Caleb Brown might see an inning or two.

But after seeing his guys on the hill Saturday, Baxter’s not too worried about not having a standout ace.

“They threw strikes,” Baxter said of Saturday’s performances. “That’s 99 percent of high school baseball.”

While the pitching was solid, it’s CK’s bats that will carry the team. With hitters like Bohlman, Daniel Zylstra, Brown, Roberts, Cole Adams, Howard McDonald, Glen and Allen Hewey, Will Morris, Cameron Salley, Mike Crowley, Josh Winkler, Vettleson and California transplant Kyle Kunkel, Baxter said he could draw his starting lineup out of a hat and still end up with a competitive batting order.

“I think today was a big boost for their confidence,” he said. “We’re gonna battle. We’ve got a great group of kids. They work hard.”

Perhaps the biggest adjustment offensively this year for CK will be Brown’s rise in notoriety. This winter, Brown worked out for Major League Baseball scouts in anticipation of being drafted this year. With teams taking note of Brown, Baxter said he’ll need to adjust his approach at the plate accordingly.

“Caleb’s gonna have to understand people are going to try to pitch around him a little bit,” Baxter said. “It’ll come. With Casey Bohlman hitting behind him, having those guys, that’ll help him.”

Even more encouraging was that the Cougars put up nine runs on the Eagles, who Baxter said have a solid pitching staff even without Rusty Devitt, who did not pitch for Klahowya at the jamboree.

“Honestly, I thought we saw decent pitching,” Baxter said. “Klahowya has some good guys. That was encouraging.”

Another new addition to the team this year that could increase CK’s offensive output is the addition of Joe Whitsett to the coaching staff. Whitsett, himself a graduate of CK, spent the last three years as Bremerton’s head coach.

“He’s working with our hitters,” Baxter said. “I didn’t even really think about that. He does a great job. And it frees me up to work a little more with the pitchers.”

Brown isn’t the only Cougar earning extra respect this season. After winning back-to-back Narrows League championships in 2006 and 2007, Baxter said the whole team needs to be prepared.

“With us winning the league the last couple years, we’re gonna have a target on our backs,” Baxter said. “But I think we’re up to the challenge. Anything can happen.”

The Narrows League will be tough once more, with Olympia joining CK at the top of the heap. The Bears feature some of the Narrows’ toughest pitching, including Adam Conley, who’s already verbally committed to WSU.

“We know our league is gonna be tough,” Baxter said. “Our division is pretty tough. Olympia is very good. Bellarmine is solid. North (Kitsap) is solid. We’re gonna have to be at the top of our game at all times.”

But league games aren’t the only ones that hold stock for CK. One non-league game CK is looking forward to is April 1, when the Cougars will reestablish their baseball rivalry with Olympic.

“It’s exciting for the kids,” Baxter said. “It’s great to play in summer, but it’s not the same. Oly’s got a good team too. It’ll be fun.”

While Baxter said his team has high goals once more, no matter what, CK should have fun on the diamond this season.

“It’s a fun group to be around,” Baxter said. “Win, lose or draw, it’s gonna be a fun season because of the type of kids we have.”

CK opened the season Monday with against Federal Way, but results were unavailable at press time. CK hosts Port Angeles at 3:30 p.m. today.

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