Sports

Cougars bounced at Junior Legion state

SPOKANE — Considering he didn’t even expect to be at state, Central Kitsap Junior American Legion coach Bill Baxter wasn’t too dismayed over getting bounced.

Don’t get Baxter wrong; he’s just as competitive as the next coach. He just didn’t think summer ball would go that long, or far.

“It never even really crossed my mind,” Baxter said. “We just thought, ‘Oh, we’ll get 25-30 games for the kids.’ I’m really excited we did it. I look forward to doing it again next year.”

Central Kitsap fell in a narrow 14-13 game to Ferndale at the 2007 American Legion Baseball Junior Championship Tournament, held at Central Valley and University high schools.

“Gosh, we just didn’t pitch very well and didn’t play very good defense,” Baxter said. “But we sure hit the ball well. You score 13 runs, you should win the game.”

At the same time, Baxter applauded his team’s effort in battling back from a 14-7 deficit to nearly overtake Ferndale.

“The kids battled back,” he said. “It was great to see. They didn’t give up.”

While the trip to state ended sooner than the team would have liked, Baxter said there was little to be disappointed with and a lot to be proud of this summer season.

“Absolutely,” he said. “It was a great season. We got a tough draw. But the experience you can’t pay for. There’s lots of people there. You’re at center stage. It was really great. The kids had a blast.”

After falling 11-0 to begin tourney play last Thursday against one of the favorites in Richland, CK bounced back with an impressive 11-5 win against Mount Vernon in a loser-out game before bowing out to Ferndale.

But rather than the games themselves, Baxter said it was the experience of getting to go to state with this crew, instilling a winning feeling in up-and-coming sophomores and freshman, that really proved valuable.

“It’s just the experience of playing together. And playing at that level,” Baxter said. “Once you get to districts and state, it’s like, ‘Wow. Now we’re going.’”

In terms of the game, Baxter said the coaching staff was able to focus on specific strategies and situations more than they’d be able to during school ball.

“I think the kids really got a good concept of the mental part of the game,” he said. “It’ll just pay off huge.

“Gosh, everyone gained from it,” Baxter continued. “Guys like Cole Adams, Mike Crowley. Those guys will be the catchers for me next year. They’re gonna have to be the field generals for me. Those two guys got a lot of benefit.”

He said youngsters like Drew Vettleson and Tyler Baumgartner, who got early exposure to the system and coaching staff also gained much, something that should ease their transition to high school ball.

“Coming from junior high to the high school level, they got the benefit of playing with the guys,” Baxter said. “Any of the freshmen coming up, it can be intimidating for them.”

Based on the success of the team in its first summer season, Baxter said he plans to keep the program going.

“That’s my hope,” he said. “Playing for your school, keeping those guys together, I think that’s very important. We try to keep it affordable and effective. You don’t have to pay $3,000 to have a great season.”

With his assistant coaches volunteering and the parents doing practically everything off the field, Baxter said the season could not have been as successful without their contributions.

“The parental support, without that parental support we wouldn’t be able to do it,” Baxter said. “And the assistant coaches all volunteered their time too. It’s pretty awesome.”

Central Kitsap players include Baumgartner, Vettleson, Adams, Allen Hewey, Howard McDonald, Crowley, Cameron Salley, Brett McDonals, Josh Winkler, Mitch Anderson, Kevin Norris, Robbie Freudenstein, Bryan Ferate, Colin Flynn, Kevin Dailly and Ben Miller.

Olympic

The Olympic Tigers pulled off their biggest summer upset to date, knocking off favorite Lakeside Gray 5-3 Sunday.

“We kind of upset ’em a little bit,” Oly coach Nate Andrews said. “We’ve done really well. And we’re the youngest team over here.”

Oly fell 8-2 in its opener Thursday before bouncing back in a tight 10-9 win against Newport. The Tigers then blanked host Central Valley 11-0 before topping Lakeside and securing a top-four finish in the state.

“It’s awesome,” Andrews said, adding that both Elliot Thorsen and Riley Crow have given outstanding efforts on the hill. “Since the first game we’ve been in what I call ‘Survivor mode.’ We don’t want to be kicked off the island. Those kids are really competitive. They want to win.”

Olympic played River Ridge, who CK beat for the district title, Monday, but results were unavailable at press time.

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