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Solid up the middle
Central Kitsap softballers Karli Baumgartner and Kendall Sours can be easy to confuse.
Both girls are seniors at Central Kitsap High School. Both have long, dark hair. Sours is a shortstop while Baumgartner lines up right next door at second base and both bat from the left-hand side.
The friends are even neighbors.
But despite all the similarities, CK coach Bruce Welling doesnt confuse the two, nor what they mean to the Central Kitsap softball program.
Theres no two better infielders in the league, Welling said. Im not saying that as a coach; thats just how it is.
Sours and Baumgartner have played pivotal roles in the success of the CK softball program during the past three seasons, helping the Cougs advance to districts the past two seasons, a feat they hope to repeat this year.
I think this is our year, said Sours, an All-Narrows League shortstop the past two seasons. I dont see how it cant be. All the seniors want it so much.
Baumgartner, who earned all-league honors as a center fielder her sophomore year before gaining them at second last season, agreed.
Everybody wants to win, wants to be here and have fun, she said.
While the tandem play to near perfection on the field, their success partially stems from their close ties off of it.
In fourth grade, the two became friends and neighbors. In the seventh grade, they competed on the same softball team. Those bonds have helped even more with Baumgartners move to the infield.
I was really happy, Baumgartner said. I like the outfield, but second base is my comfort zone. Its been my favorite position ever since I started there.
It certainly hasnt hurt that the move put her best friend next to her.
Its just really comfortable knowing you have someone next to you that can back you up, Baumgartner said. If a ball is hit to a hole, its like, Oh, its OK. Kendalls gonna get to it.
Sours agreed, saying she was elated when Baumgartner became her double-play partner.
Definitely. Shes so good at both, Sours said of Baumgartner. But it felt good with her behind me or beside me. We can joke with each other a lot. We know how to react. I can flip it to second base and know whos catching it.
If anything, the pairing has left Sours at a disadvantage, Welling joked.
Kendall, I kind of feel sorry for her because Karli gets all the balls, Welling said with a smile. But she kind of runs everything out there. The harder they hit it, the better they like it.
That much is true, as both softball standouts will attest. But thats just part of a work ethic that has helped shape their athletic prowess.
Its just fun, Sours said. Every practice is busy for the infield. Coach (John) Sitton and Bruce will be sweating and were going, Come on. Come on.
Welling too said the pairs friendship has been to CKs advantage on the field.
They hang around together, he said. They know each other. Theres never any bickering or fighting or anything else. They fall down once in a great, great while, but they never stay down.
Baumgartner agreed, saying the pair has become more like sisters than friends.
Were always together, she said. Being neighbors helps out a lot. Weve become such good friends over the years. Its like a sister thing. And softball, playing together, getting that chemistry, helps a lot also.
Like any team, there are bumps in the road at times in the season. But both echoed each other in saying humor helps the friends, and the team for that matter, stay at ease.
We still try to joke around, Baumgartner said. We try to set these plays up where Ill flip it to her with my glove. Its just fun.
Sours said its even given them some comedic fuel to jokingly use against one another.
We always laugh at each other, Sours said. Probably one of my favorite times this easy popup comes to Karli. She misjudged it so bad she had to dive for it. Only she can do that.
While the pair have a good time individually, Welling said its not at the expense of the team. He said both Baumgartner and Sours have been great about integrating the teams younger and newer players.
They lead by example, Welling said. No one gets on anybody. Its a very cohesive group.
And thats what makes Baumgartner and Sours optimistic that this is the year of the Cougars.
It has helped, Baumgartner said of the teams previous district trips, but I think having everyone be there that wants to win helps a lot. They want it just as much as we do.
And while Welling isnt worried about how this team, or his double-play duo, will perform, he wouldnt mind a little help from the opposition.
Id like more people to hit it to them more often, Welling said, grinning.