"Sorry, Oly League: Cougars as good as ever"

"Poor, poor Bruce Welling. The other fastpitch coaches around the Olympic League probably should circulate a sympathy card.The Central Kitsap High School coach has the league's - indeed, one of the state's - most traditionally powerful programs. The Cougars are coming off a third-place finish in the 2000 state Class 4A championships. This year, Welling's got the bulk of that team back, plus a raft of newcomers with the talent and experience to make an immediate impact.And Welling's not at all happy.It's a problem, he says of the difficulty his team's opulent depth creates for him, as he is charged with finding adequate playing time to keep everyone happy.Let's all pause, just for a moment, and wipe away a tear.Actually, Welling's tongue is planted firmly and expertly in his cheek when he speaks of the problem of having way more players than there are positions on the field.I've got 14 people who can start for us, and in a normal year they would start, he said.A normal year for the Cougars entails winning the Olympic League championship, grabbing one of the top seeds out of the West Central District and bringing home a trophy from state.The fact that Welling doesn't view this as a normal year packs some ominous overtones for the rest of the league.Sympathy time is officially over.Between their prep and summer-ball resumes, which are packed with experience playing for the area's top club teams in some of the nation's most prestigious tournaments, it'll be hard to put the Cougars into a situation that would throw or even unsettle them.In high school ball we went 26-4 and took third in state, he said. The Diamond Dusters 14s (a team which Welling coached and which included many of the CK varsity's newer players) went 51-16 and traveled all over the place.There's so much experience, Welling said. When our kids get in big games, they're able to say, 'I've been in bigger games than this.' They can draw on that experience.With last year's all-league battery of Jessica Cabato (Bethune Cookman) and Cyndi Roqueta (U.S. Army) graduated, the Cougs still are loaded at both positions. Welling said he'll feel comfortable with any one of three pitchers - junior Jackie Miller starred as a sophomore last year, something Welling said 10th-graders Jackie Quint and Sheena Stangler both are capable of this year. Seniors Rebecca DeRusha and Lindsay Poss and junior Kara Griepentrog all have experience behind the plate, and also could be prominent elsewhere in the infield.Second baseman Tersha Brown, shortstop Stephanie Brown and third baseman Tiffany Meyers all are veterans, as is outfielder Kendal Allman. A combination of junior varsity vets and talented sophomores - including Stangler and Nicole Zygmontowicz - will fill the outfield ranks.It'll be a scramble, Welling said, to get everybody playing time. Grinning an it's hard work, but somebody's got to do it grin, he shrugged, Oh, I'll get 'em in. If there's one thing somebody's especially good at, we'll use them in that situation. They'll play.Welling pointed out that every one of his players, varsity and junior varsity, lettered last season. At times, the Linder Field complex looks like a big-league baseball Spring Training facility, what with all the players shuttling between the varsity and JV fields on game days.It'll be harder than ever this year, but don't spend any time pitying Welling. He called it a problem, but it's a problem other coaches would love to have. "

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