Sports

SK finds itself in rebuilding mode for 2006

It’s no secret the 2006 South Kitsap girl’s fastpitch softball team has a few holes to fill. But instead of dwelling on what she doesn’t have, coach Kathy Ballew is determined to focus on what she does have.

“It’s a tough road, but it’s interesting also,” said Ballew, who is entering her 15th year at South. “We get to see if we can be consistent, and I’m hoping that we can.”

South lost six starters off of last year’s 19-2 squad that won the Narrows League title and earned a national ranking of 24th in USA Today before flaming out with an 0-2 performance at the West Central District Tournament.

Gone are pitchers Amanda Galla and Brittany Miller, whose combined earned run average was 1, as is league MVP Stephanie Mott.

What the Wolves do have will be a lot of young but untested players, which gives this year’s team depth. And Ballew is hoping that trade off will be enough to get the team back to the top of the league standings.

“I’d love for people to overlook us (because of the kids we lost to graduation),” Ballew said. “But because of last year, I’m sure people expect us to be back. And I do, too. I expect us to be back up there.”

Ballew added that she has a lot of kids who are able to play multiple positions in the field, so the team won’t be forced to rely on just one or two key players.

In a word, the Wolves will be more versatile.

The biggest hole is pitching, where Ballew has to replace Miller and Galla. The duo picked up 18 of South’s 19 wins last year, pitching all but five innings.

In fact, Kali Butler was the only other pitcher to get any time on the hill last year, and she will be counted on, as will Kristin Stephens, to carry the pitching load.

Butler appeared in three games last year, going seven innings while allowing eight hits and five earned runs. She struck out six and walked two.

Stephens spent the entire year pitching for the junior varsity, but Ballew said she’s improved the speed and movement on her throws and should put up some solid numbers.

Both are juniors, but they won’t be totally alone, since Caty Lieseke returns behind the plate to help them out.

Lieseke was a major part of the Wolves’ run last season and as just a sophomore called the pitches for both Miller and Galla. She will have a lot to do with the growth of the pitching staff this year.

“I’m very happy with the way we’ve started. Things have really come together,” Lieseke said. “(Butler and Stephens) have really been working hard and I think everything will work out.”

Lieseke will also lead an offense that also has some huge holes to fill. As a team, South batting .358 last year and drove in 105 runs, but the bulk of that lineup has graduated.

Lieseke batted .393 last year with six extra-base hits and drove in 16 runs.

But Joy Thomas, Katie Robertson and Natalie Peapea also return, giving the Wolves an experienced core to build around in the order.

“We’ll be able to put the ball in play,” Ballew said. “Our contact is really good. Power may be missing, but we’ll be consistent. If we can get base runners on, we’ll be able to move them around.”

Lieseke and Peapea (.333,10 RBI) should provide the Wolves with some power in the middle of the order, while Robertson (.200, 1 RBI) and Thomas (.226, 3 RBI) will have to up their numbers from last year.

“(Batting) is still a work in progress,” Peapea said. “I haven’t hit as much as I did last year at the beginning of the season, so I know I have a lot more to work on with my batting.”

Other returners for South who should see plenty of action include Jessie Sannino, Leah Stevens and Tara Higgins.

One thing South has had plenty off this year is time. The Wolves don’t play their first game until Monday, giving the younger players an extra three or four days to work on fundamentals.

South opens the season against Stadium and begins the defense of its league title March 24 at Bremerton.

“Pretty much everyone knows that we have to work really hard because when we lost at district last year, it hit everyone hard,” Peapea said. “We have a lot of expectations to live up to, and everyone knows that.”

2006 South Kitsap Girls Fastpitch Schedule

DATE OPONNENT TIME

March 20 STADIUM 3:30 p.m.

March 22 @Wilson 3:30 p.m.

March 24 @Bremerton 3:30 p.m.

March 28 SHELTON 3:30 p.m.

March 30 OLYMPIC 3:30 p.m.

April 12 CENTRAL KITSAP 3:30 p.m.

April 14 GIG HARBOR 3:30 p.m.

April 17 @Port Angeles 3:45 p.m.

April 19 NORTH KITSAP 3:30 p.m.

April 21 BREMERTON 3:30 p.m.

April 24 @Shelton 3:30 p.m.

April 26 @Olympic 3:30 p.m.

April 28 @Central Kitsap 3:30 p.m.

May 1 @Gig Harbor 3:30 p.m.

May 3 PORT ANGELES 3:30 p.m.

May 5 @North Kitsap 3:30 p.m.

2006 KNG Preseason Narrows League Fastpitch poll

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

1. North Kitsap - 33 (2)

2. Central Kitsap - 30 (1)

3. South Kitsap - 27 (1)

4. Gig Harbor - 20

5. Port Angeles - 16

6. Olympic - 13

7. Bremerton - 7

8. Shelton - 6

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