Sports

Wolves look to dominate again

In high school sports, a lot of things can change. And quickly.

Just take the South Kitsap baseball team for example.

Entering the 2006 season, third-year coach Jim Fairweather was pretty concerned about his team’s dearth of pitching. But after just a few days of practice, the focus has already shifted from pitching to other things.

And that could be a good thing.

“I said at the very beginning that I thought we’d hit it, and I thought we’d field it, but I wasn’t sure about our pitching,” Fairweather said. “But now, I have a lot more optimism when it comes to pitching.”

With just one starting pitcher returning from a team that recorded, at least in South Kitsap’s eyes, a dismal 13-7 season that saw the Wolves bounced from the 2005 postseason after just one game, things looked bleak to say the least.

But when workouts started in late February, Fairweather got a couple of pleasant surprises in that department and now the focus is squarely on the mission at hand - getting South back to where it belongs.

“I’m confident that they understand what’s at stake and what we’ve got to do,” Fairweather said. “We have to get ourselves back to where we believe we should be.”

By South Kitsap standards, that means winning the Narrows League and advancing to the state tournament, a place the Wolves have not been since winning it all in 2003.

“Our goal is to do that,” Fairweather said. “I won’t be satisfied being 14-6 or 13-7, whatever we were last year. For a lot of people, that’s a good winning percentage, but for us, we have loftier goals.”

The drive to Safeco Field, sight of this year’s Class 4A state tournament, seems to be in a little bit better shape now that spring workouts have begun.

Entering the season, the Wolves had just Andrew Thatcher back to pitch, but the emergence of Brent Pishu and Mitch Williams has changed everything.

Thatcher will anchor the starting rotation. The crafty lefthander went 6-2 last year, relying on his sweeping curveball and off-speed junk.

In fact, for a while at least, he felt like he would have to carry the load alone, but that’s not an issue now.

“We have a lot more options to go to,” Thatcher said. “As a whole, we’ll be better (as a staff) because we’re deeper and we have more outlets to go to.”

The fact that South can throw two hard-tossing righties in Pishu and Williams around Thatcher gives the Wolves a formidable starting rotation.

“The fact that Thatcher comes from the left side is an absolute bonus,” Fairweather said. “Pishu is the hottest of all our guys right now, and Williams has just been a nice find. We have two options from the right side as far as power goes, and we’re pretty excited about that.”

Pishu is a hard-thrower in the mold of Matt Hudson, while Willaims, who moved to Port Orchard from Issaquah, also throws hard but complements his power with a sharp breaking ball.

While the rotation seems to be set, South will also have the plenty of arms to fill in where needed for spot starts as well as middle and long relief and as a stopper.

Jason Read and David Hammrich are capable of jumping into whatever situation needs them, while Kyle Pease looks to be the guy to come in and slam the door in relief.

“Pitching-wise, I think we’ll be really good because our young guys are really good, too,” Fairweather said. “We have a couple of kids at the junior varsity level that we believe have the capacity to pitch as this level this year, and certainly next year.”

South has always had a reputation of being a strong defensive team, and Fairweather said that will be no different this year. In fact, the Wolves’ fielding may be even better this year than in the past.

With all-league players like shortstop Zach Jacob and outfielder Pease, who will also see time at second, expect South to be solid up the middle once again.

The corners and the outfield may start off a little green but Fairweather expects to have a solid defensive team by the time league plays begins.

The infield will round out with Josh Lounsberry at first, Read or Josh Puckett at third and Aarom Smothers back behind the plate.

The outfield will be manned by Read, Kenny Ladenburg, Hammrich and Ryan Cosgrove.

The only question mark now may be at the plate. But that should come around in time. Jacob led the Wolves last year by hitting .414, pounding out 12 extra-base hits while driving in 19 runs. Pease collected eight extra-base hits, including three home runs, hit .400 and drove in 19 runs from the Wolves leadoff position, where he will be again this year.

“Zach and Kyle, they should dominate,” Fairweather said. “They should be right at the top of all the categories on offense. I look for all our guys, one through nine, to be able to swing the bat and be dangerous.”

Fairweather added that he expects seniors like Ryan Cosgrove, Read and Kenny Ladenburg to step up and have big years at the plate as well.

“After we get a couple games under us, we’ll turn out to be a pretty good team,” Jacob said. “After they get some reps at bat, our offense should be a strong point.”

And that, combined with everything else, should get the Wolves back on top.

“We just need to come together as a team and maybe get on a hot streak,” Pease said. “I think we’ll be a lot more consistent this year because we have a lot better team, I think.”

2006 South Kitsap Boys Baseball Schedule

DATE OPONNENT TIME

March 14 @Stadium 3:45 p.m.

March 16 @Wilson 3:30 p.m.

March 21 BREMERTON 3:45 p.m.

March 22 @Bremerton 3:45 p.m.

March 24 CAPITAL 3:45 p.m.

March 28 @Shelton 3:45 p.m.

March 29 SHELTON 3:45 p.m.

April 3 OLYMPIC 3:45 p.m.

April 4 @Olympic 4 p.m.

April 11 @Central Kitsap 3:45 p.m.

April 12 CENTRAL KITSAP 3:45 p.m.

April 18 GIG HARBOR 3:45 p.m.

April 19 @Gig Harbor 3:45 p.m.

April 25 PORT ANGELES 3:45 p.m.

April 26 @Port Angeles 4 p.m.

April 29 NORTH KITSAP noon

May 1 @North Kitsap 3:45 p.m.

2006 KNG Preseason Narrows League Baseball poll

Here is the Kitsap News Group's preseason Narrows League baseball poll voted on by the sports editors and writers of the KNG newspapers. First place votes are in parentheses.

1. South Kitsap - 36 (3)

2. Gig Harbor - 26

3. Port Angeles - 25 (1)

4. Central Kitsap - 20

5. North Kitsap - 20

6. Olympic - 13

7. Bremerton - 7

8. Shelton - 5

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