The Central Kitsap High School fast-pitch team feel they are set to make a run this year. Coach Bruce Welling said the team this year is a solid but for its one weakness: “The coaches are getting older,” he joked.
Last year the cougars made it to the state tournament, finishing the year tied for eighth in the state. Returning players from last year’s team are confident that they can replicate last year’s success.
“We’re seniors this year,” said pitcher Caylee Coulter. “We’re going to be even better.”
The cougars only graduated three starters from last year’s team: a center-fielder, shortstop and a first-baseman.
“They (the graduates) are great players and everything,” Coulter said, “but we’ll be fine.”
Welling said the team has brought in a good freshman class, which will help fill the small void left by the departing seniors. Coulter agreed, saying the freshman class brings in new experience.
Welling said he anticipates this year’s team will do just as well as or better than last year.
Both Welling and his players anticipated their key opponents will be Bellarmine and South Kitsap. Bellarmine won the Narrows league last year, but the cougars knocked them out of the state tournament.
South Kitsap is coached by Jessica Cabato, a former Central Kitsap player and assistant coach under Welling.
No matter how this season ends, Welling announced earlier this year that he plans to retire from Central Kitsap at the end of the school year. Welling helped start the fast-pitch program at Central Kitsap and has been its coach since it began in the early 1980s.
Third-baseman Emily Gorecki said she’s glad Welling waited to retire until after their senior season. She spoke about both her senior teammates and Welling: “We have to go out with a bang.”