CK falls, but ride was fun

Central Kitsap senior Erika Quint shares a postgame embrace with coach Bruce Welling after the Cougars’ 6-1 season-ending loss at state to Graham-Kapowsin. - Aaron Managhan/staff photo
Central Kitsap senior Erika Quint shares a postgame embrace with coach Bruce Welling after the Cougars’ 6-1 season-ending loss at state to Graham-Kapowsin.
— image credit: Aaron Managhan/staff photo

TACOMA — Usually after a team loses to end its season, the mood is a somber one, quiet and reflective. This atmosphere is often amplified if the loss occurs at the pinnacle of competition in that sport.

But then again, the Central Kitsap Cougars aren’t your usual softball team.

After dropping two games at the 2007 WIAA State Softball Championships Friday at South End Recreation Area, there were inevitably a few tears shed. But more prevalent were the smiles on the Cougs’ faces and the sounds of laughter between friends.

“I don’t know why I’m not crying,” CK senior pitcher Erika Quint said. “It just feels so good to be here.”

Central Kitsap (19-7) fell in a narrow 2-0 game Friday morning against Lake Stevens before getting beat in a rematch of the squad’s district bout with Graham-Kapowsin, 6-1.

While the losses ended CK’s season, for many of the team’s seniors, it marked the end of something much larger.

“The girls, I’m probably never going to play with them ever again,” Quint said. “That’s really sad.”

But Quint added the sting isn’t as bad after finally making it to state.

“We haven’t done it in seven years. It just feels good,” Quint said. “We made it to state, but we wanted to do better. We just didn’t play our best.”

But it was still hard for a number of the seniors. For example, second baseman Karli Baumgartner and shortstop Kendall Sours have played on teams together for nearly a decade, having become close friends in the process. But now, with Sours set to play for Central Connecticut State and Baumgartner planing on attending Olympic College for a year, the games marked the final time the duo would occupy the middle infield together.

“This is the last team I’ll ever play with Kendall,” Baumgartner said. “We’ve been playing together since we were little. That’s a hard part too.”

“It’s funny because we never hug,” a teary-eyed Sours said. “It’s one thing we never do. But we had to this game. We’ve been playing so long together.”

The duo’s friendship exemplifies the strong team atmosphere CK fostered this season. CK coach Bruce Welling said it was the closest team he’s had.

“They’re seniors and sophomores,” he said. “But they all hang around together. There’s no cliques, no anything. They just go out, enjoy themselves and play ball. This is closest group I’ve ever had and I’ve been coaching softball since ’82. We had great people all around.”

In the opener against Lake Stevens, the Cougars just couldn’t muster up enough offense.

“The pitcher didn’t stop us,” Welling said of the 2-0 shutout. “We stopped ourselves hitting.”

Both the Vikings’ runs came in the first inning on bloop singles that were simply where CK wasn’t.

Against Graham-Kapowsin, CK still couldn’t heat up its bats, while GK scored 5 of its runs in the third inning.

But throughout both contests, the team was smiling, joking around with one another or congratulating one another on strong plays. Both Baumgartner and Sours said if the team was going to go out, everyone wanted to enjoy the last game.

“It does. If this is going to be our last game, it’ll be a fun last game,” Baumgartner said. “We didn’t want it to be something where we remember being frustrated and hanging our heads. It was fun just laughing.”

“We all laugh together no matter what,” Sours added. “It’s just such a fun team. We were good and we had fun doing it.”

Welling said there’s no one thing that enables CK to stay so light-hearted, yet focused, on the field.

“There’s so many things,” Welling said. “We laugh. We have a very good time. We demonstrated that.”

For Central Kitsap’s seniors, the state run represented the end of a two-year streak of coming pain-stakingly close to state, only to fall at districts despite talented teams.

“It feels really good,” Sours said. “We were so close every year. Every year we got a little bit better and we finally got here.”

That made the end of the run easier to take too.

“It’s a huge difference,” Baumgartner said. “The goal this year wasn’t to take first, it was to get to state. We did that. It’s just a great feeling just to be here.”

While Welling said he doesn’t enjoy giving the end-of-the-year speech himself, he reminded the team of all its accomplishments this season.

“It’s a tough moment, but only one team leaves smiling,” Welling said. “Everyone else will be sad-faced. (Losing at districts was) something they didn’t want to happen. It’s called belief in yourself. And it’s called not being afraid to make a mistake.”

Central Kitsap will graduate a senior core including Quint, Sours, Baumgartner, Brittney Romano and Amy Renfrow.

The Cougars will return a strong sophomore class, however, that includes pitcher Carolyn Cross, catcher Katie Hanten, and outfielders Julie Fergus and Erin Curtis, among others.

The Cougars also finished third in the state academically, finishing the season with a combined 3.65 gpa, just .03 behind champs Walla Walla.

Welling said his squad had a lot to be proud of this season.

“The proudness comes from the overall program,” he said. “These kids work hard. They always want more and more and more.”

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