Central Kitsap fastpitch works on battery power

"Conventional wisdom says that if you've got a good battery, you've got a good fastpitch team.Central Kitsap is living proof that sometimes conventional wisdom is accurate.The Cougars' battery almost always includes catcher Cyndi Roqueta and one of two pitchers - either proven veteran Jessica Cabato, a senior, or promising sophomore Jackie Miller. That trio, along with a solid group of returning seniors and another outstanding group of sophomores, will likely lead the Cougs to the Olympic League title again this year.Of course, winning the league title is not the benchmark by which Central Kitsap fastpitch measures itself. The Cougs are judged by their performance at the West Central District tournament and by whether they advance to state.In most years, CK is a lock to play at state. But last year - due in large part to a key injury to Roqueta - Central missed out on state for the first time in eight years.Don't expect that lightening to strike twice. Not with Cabato, who went 16-3 on the mound last year and owns a 28-8 record in high school, back for a senior campaign.And not with Miller, 2-1 thus far this year, around to make sure Cabato's arm doesn't get tired.We have two very good ones, CK coach Bruce Welling said. They both have a lot of movement on the ball. They're very similar. Cabato mostly gets ground-ball outs, and Miller might get a fly out now and again.In past years, Welling has used two pitchers during the league season, but only one in postseason play. He doesn't expect that to happen this year.I'm not afraid to go with either one, he said.Roqueta is pretty much a lock behind the plate, however. The way she's been hitting lately, Johnny Bench couldn't dislodge the senior three-year starter from her position.Roqueta has three home runs already this year, including two in a recent Cougar win over Bremerton. And she's probably the league's best defensive catcher, too, according to Welling.Joining Roqueta in the early-season hit parade for CK are junior designated hitter Rebecca DeRusha, who also clobbered a homer against Bremerton, and right fielder/first baseman Aubee Sumner, who has a home run, triple and a pair of doubles in the early going this year.I think we have more power than we've ever had, Welling said. If we don't make mistakes, we'll do well.Across town at Olympic, fastpitch is a family affair: leading the Trojans this year are catcher Michelle Gutierrez and second baseman Victoria Gutierrez. Also back for coach Barbara St. John are veterans Kara Baumgartner, Nina Rosario and pitcher Melissa Elsen.St. John is also pleased with the progress of three sophomores, first baseman Nicole Strickland, outfielder Allyson John and utility player Jizean Rosario.Klahowya won just one Olympic League game in 12 outings last year, but fared better against 2A schools in non-league competition. This year, the Eagles have struggled even to get games in the books - as of Monday, they'd played just two. But there is plenty of cause for optimism for the Eagles, as evidenced in Klahowya's 14-1 pasting of Vashon on March 23. Three veterans in their third year as starters - Rachel Rolle, Mary Davenport and Maranda Hall - teamed for seven RBIs in that game. That trio is as good as any in the league, but the key to Klahowya's season will be depth.Depth is one thing that the perennial power Cougars have in spades, thanks to returning starters Stephanie Brown, Lindsey Poss and Tishala Rought, as well as sophomores Kara Griepentrog, Tiffany Meyers, Shannon Fulsom and Corie Simons.The returners, at least, come back with the memory of missing state last year. Welling said his team has left that experience in the past - in fact, he said CK would have made the tourney if it weren't for the injury to Roqueta - but one suspects the disappointment lingers in the back of CK's collective mind.The kids want to get back there (to state), Welling said. They know they deserve to be back ... Last year was a mistake. We forget about it and go ahead. We're not going to dwell on the past."

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