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Local talent runs deep, again
CK, Oly, KSS ready to reload with fresh, familiar faces.
There is no shortage of talent on the fastpitch field in Kitsap County in 2009, especially in the Central Kitsap area.
And while some of the stars from last season have moved on, such as Olympic’s Kelsey Anchors, who now plays at Oklahoma State University, and Rachel Haas, others return for what figures to be a talent-rich 2009 season.
Central Kitsap returns all but two players from last year’s state-qualifying team that placed second at districts, led by pitcher Carolyn Cross, who was named the Central Kitsap Reporter’s 2008 Female Student-Athlete of the Year.
Olympic lost a trio of leaders — Anchors, Haas and Athena Rosario — but returns a handful of impact players plus a new coach, Dusty Anchors, the father of Kelsey Anchors.
Klahowya, meanwhile, welcomes back pitcher Kazandra Holliday, who in 2008 pitched 101 2/3 innings, striking out 146 batters. The Lady Eagles parted with Jocylynn Meadows, the team’s starting catcher last year, but will have the services of infielder Meika Bumbalough, who had a .773 slugging percentage in 2008.
Here is a closer look at each team leading into the 2009 campaign.
Central Kitsap: One game at a time to the top
Coach Bruce Welling said during practice last week he wants his team to take the season one game at a time. Rather than look ahead to the postseason or even the next game, Welling said the Lady Cougars must treat every game like it’s their last.
“The expectations for the girls are very high,” Welling said. “It’s not a 25- or 30-game season, it’s a one-game season and you do the best you can in that one ballgame and do the same thing the next day and the next day.”
But it’s hard not to mention the Cougars and postseason in unison; Welling’s team, a win from winning a district title in 2008, is as talented as any in the Narrows League.
“I think we stack up very, very well,” Welling said, referring to the league. “But It doesn’t matter … if we don’t do our best, we’re not going to win.”
The wins figure to rest in large part on the arm of Cross, who in 2008 pitched 108 innings, finishing 14-4 with 90 strikeouts and 19 walks. Cross has been named to the All-Narrows League First Team the past two seasons.
“Our flaw was we made some errors behind her,” Well said, pointing to Cross’ 0.00 ERA in the 2008 district and state tournaments combined.
Three-year starter Katie Hanten, who posted a .311 batting average and 14 RBI last season, once again will call the shots behind the plate. Hanten, a senior, is high atop Welling’s list of quality catchers.
“She’s one of the best catchers I’ve ever had,” Welling said. “She throws extremely well, she calls a very smart game and she can hit the ball.”
Sarah Buskirk, first base; Erin Curtis, second base; Whitney Samora, third base; and Jenna Bartlett, shortstop, round out the CK infield, which Welling called “adhesive.”
Sophomore Naomi Stocks, who batted a team-high .483 at the plate in 2008, adding 21 runs and 16 RBI, will lead the outfield group. Stocks, who Welling said “covers a lot of ground,” will play centerfield.
Kim Chase, who started the district championship game last year, is second in line after Cross on the mound.
“I have 100 percent confidence in her, she throws extremely well, she works very, very hard, one of our harder workers,” Welling said of Chase. “She’s going to do very well and I won’t be afraid to pitch her against anybody.”
With such an experienced, talented team, Welling acknowledges the potential the 2009 Lady Cougars have, but he also insists success won’t come easy.
“We’re a veteran group this year, If we stay healthy, then we should do very well,” he said. “If we don’t or we lose mental (focus), then we’re going to be struggling.”
As for team chemistry, Welling has no concerns.
“This team could be another element on the periodic chart; it goes very well with oxygen, hydrogen and everything else,” he said.
CK opens the season at 11 a.m. tomorrow at home against Puyallup.
Olympic: New coach, new standards, new stars
Dusty Anchors knows a little bit about softball.
The father of former Olympic standout Kelsey Anchors has coached in some fashion or another — at the Pee Wee, junior high, high school, collegiate and just about every level in between — for the past 43 years. Coaching has taken him to Nevada, California, Texas and a handful of other places across the country. Anchors also has coached Tracyton fastpich at the 10U level all the way up to 18U.
“It’s good to be back in the third-base box,” said Anchors, the replacement for Rachael Davenport, who took a job with the Bremerton School District.
With such a wealth of experience, Anchors hopes to bring a new set of standards — higher standards — and a new mentality to the Lady Trojan team.
“I made it very clear to the girls from the get-go that just because they were on varsity last year doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily make it this year,” Anchors said. “They came out with a little more intensity … That has a trickle down effect.”
Olympic reached the district tournament last season, but failed to qualify for state. With its two best players — Kelsey Anchors and Haas — moving on, and standout catcher Athena Rosario graduating as well, Dusty Anchors has his work cut out.
“The good thing is we have seven players back who have seen varsity action,” Anchors said. “The thing I like about this team is they are willing to do whatever it takes to win.”
Among the top returnees are Lexi Orteza, Kelsey Strickland, Stacie Longmire and Jessica Klump, all of whom Anchors said appear to be better at the plate than they were in 2008.
“They’ve all improved from last year, they’re doing well in the cages,” Anchors said. “If what they’re doing in the batting cages is any indication (of what they’ll do), then I think we’re going to surprise some people.”
Anchors said Longmire, Strickland and Stephanie Meigs, who transferred from Central Kitsap, will see action on the mound, each having a chance to start on any given day.
“I will put in the pitcher who I feel gives us the best match up against the other team,” Anchors said.
The Lady Trojans are scheduled to play two night games at home this season, including a 6 p.m. April 15 game against Bremerton.
Anchors added the team is looking for scoreboard sponsors, will have covered dugouts and is “looking to bring as many fans as we can.”
The team opens against Central Kitsap at 4 p.m. Monday at Linder Field.
Klahowya: It’s all about senior leadership
After advancing to districts, but missing state, Klahowya is back with nearly its entire roster from 2008.
The Lady Eagles return eight seniors, but lose catcher Jocylynn Meadows, who last year hit .320 with five doubles and nine RBI.
Now-seniors Kazandra Holliday and Meika Bumbalough, however, are back. Both had impressive numbers in 2008.
Holliday had 2.34 ERA in 101 2/3 innings, striking out 146 batters while walking just 47. And Bumbalough, an infielder, finished with a .455 average, five doubles and three homers, driving in 18 runs and scoring 14 more. She also had a .607 on-base percentage and a .773 slugging mark.
“I have high expectation, they have high expectations of finishing, hopefully, at state,” said second-year coach Holly Carver.
To do that, the Lady Eagles will have to weather what could be a tough Olympic League, as well as the postseason.
“I think the Olympic League, as far as fastpitch goes, is pretty competitive,” Carver said, pointing to North Mason, North Kitsap, Olympic and Kingston. “It should be fun.”
Carver said “we should be pretty solid all around,” but added it’s too early to tell. She had yet to finalize her lineup March 6.
With one year under her belt, however, Carver said the preseason this year has gone smoother than it did last year,
“It’s nice for me because they know me, I know them,” Carver said. “They know the routine already, unlike last year when I started.”
The Lady Eagles have reached the district tournament two seasons in a row, but have yet to crack the state tournament.
The prospect of advancing to state has Carver and the senior-laden team motivated.
“They know what it takes to get there, but we’ve got to finish it this year,” Carver said.
The team opens the season against Aberdeen at home Monday. Time is to be determined. The Lady Eagles visit CK at 4 p.m. Thursday.