Sports

CK, Oly, KSS baseball looking to next year

Central Kitsap had its best season in more than a decade. Olympic and Klahowya had seasons they’d probably rather forget.

But come the 2007 season, all three squads will have reasons to smile. For CK, that means keeping what was started this year going strong. For Oly and Klahowya, the new Olympic League is offering new hope.

Central Kitsap

The Cougars had a tremendous run, stomping Olympia for the Narrows League title before running into a disappointing West Central District outing.

A large core of the team’s top hitters are graduating, including Narrows League MVP Tyler Owens (.542, 3 homers, 14 RBI) and Aaron Johnson (.356, 5, 21).

Among others graduating are Zac Brown (3-0, 2.23 ERA), Nate Wallen, Kyle Poss, Shane Coxon and more.

“(The seniors) have done a great job,” CK coach Bill Baxter, NL coach of the year, said. “It’s hard to say goodbye to those guys.”

But that doesn’t mean CK won’t be competitive in the new NL, which places CK in the Bay Division against North Kitsap, Bellarmine, Mt. Tahoma, Stadium and Olympia.

“I think we have a good group of kids coming back next year,” Baxter said. “I’m excited.”

With returners including David Stilley, who emerged as the team’s ace with a 3-0 record and a 1.93 ERA in 29 innings, Daniel Zylstra (.340, 1 HR, 16 runs), Caleb Brown (.375, 3 HR, 20 RBI) and more, CK should be right back in the hunt for another NL title.

But Baxter admitted it wouldn’t be easy.

“It’s impossible to replace guys like Tyler Owens and Aaron Johnson and Zac Brown,” Baxter said. “They’ve taken this program from a few wins a year to at one point, No. 4 in the state this season.”

Olympic

It was a tough year on many levels for the Trojans, with many young players being thrust into key roles.

And with more experience graduating in the form of guys like Nick Bankus (.364, 13 runs), PT Whalen (.322, 14 RBI), Xavier Mancha (.328, 11 runs) and Mark Fojtik (2-5, 4.11 ERA, 46 innings), the Trojans will be looking for even more production from an even younger squad.

“They’re going to have to do a lot of work over the summer,” Oly coach Nate Andrews said of his returners. “A lot of work in the weight room. It’s hard to replace a PT Whalen at shortstop or Xavier’s bat or Bankus.”

Not being able to use Bankus, the school’s all-time hitting leader with a .401 career average, as a pitcher also limited the Trojans’ success. Bankus was injured during football season.

“The biggest thing was not being able to bring in Nick to pitch,” Andrews said. “If he could have gone up against everyone one time, I can’t imagine we wouldn’t have a few more wins.”

Among Oly’s key returners will be Jeremy Huffman, Ty Olson, Ronnie Purser and Tristan Marshall, among others.

“The kids are doing everything they can to catch up and get where they need to be,” Andrews said. “But time has to pass for kids to grow and get better.”

Olympic will also graduate Jason Bernett and Saul Peterson.

Klahowya

The Eagles found themselves in a similar situation, with no clear leader stepping forward. Coach Vince Hlavaty said that will be something both the coaching staff and team will work on.

“The biggest thing is we didn’t have any established kids and I didn’t groom any,” Hlavaty said. “We’re at the point now where we’ve started grooming kids for next year. So I guess I learned stuff too.”

With Ceth Seamans, Dan Leenstra and Jason Gryzybowski graduating, the team will lose some of its top talent. But with a large returning core, Hlavaty said the squad is already looking forward to its Olympic League debut.

“We’re very excited,” Hlavaty said. “It’ll be great to have us in there. And the kids are excited about it.”

With pitcher Rusty Devitt, catcher Chris Miller and outfielder Jordan Green at the forefront of Klahowya’s youth movement, Hlavaty said there’s no reason the Eagles can’t get competitive.

“It’s really those three guys we’re looking at square in the eye to step up,” he said. “With Chris, he’s a born leader. Rusty is going to be very good. Jordan is probably one of the best pure hitters I’ve seen.”

Also returning for the Eagles will be Joel Sheppard and Isaac Solaita, among others.

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