Fastpitch team to rely on youth

"Five years ago the South Kitsap High School fastpitch team won a state title with a talented group of juniors.Because of that experience, SK coach Kathy Ballew said this year's team isn't rebuilding despite having only two seniors.The Wolves are looking to make a return trip to state this year with seniors Lindsey Suppa and Jacque Vetters being the only returning starters.SK could have had two more returning seniors but pitcher Amanda Ballard opted not to play this year and catcher Suzanne Olson recently left the team.The way the squad is made up this year makes SK coach Kathy Ballew glad she gave some experience to last year's sophomores Irene Barber, Sara Carlson, Melinda McDonald, and Carly Siems.Barber and McDonald have been rewarded for their play on and off the field by being named the team co-captains for the year.It was a hectic first two weeks for Ballew, who had to balance her coaching duties between softball and the girls basketball team that advanced to the state tournament.Though she claims she's gotten a few gray hairs in the past month, Ballew said she is excited but this year's squad.We've got some young, fresh players who want to play ball and have some fun, Ballew said. They also have the desire to win.The biggest hole to fill is replacing pitcher Sara Ward, who anchored the 18-7 Wolves team to state last year.Ballew said junior Carri Lefler is the No.1 pitcher, and Jenny MacMillan should see some time on the mound as well. Ballew also mentioned the possibility of sophomore Missy Quam getting some innings.Lefler was thrown into the fire Monday against Central Kitsap for the first game of the season, and held her own.She threw all seven innings, giving up five runs on eight hits in a 5-4 loss against a CK team that also advanced to state last year.Despite the loss of Olson, McDonald earned her seasoning at districts and state last year and will step in immediately.McDonald laced an two-run double against CK.Rounding out the infield is Siems at third base, Suppa at shortstop, sophomore Kelsey Herstad at second base and Barber at first base. Sophomore Sara Brown can play in the infield as well, making this year's squad versatile.We have a variety of players that are real athletic and can play anywhere, Ballew said. We have more speed than we've had in the past.Vetters, Carlson, and sophomore Diana Pike round out the outfield.It won't long for the young Wolves to get a feel for the varsity level of play.After CK last Monday, SK faced perennial power North Thurston on Thursday. The Wolves continue non-league play with a home game against Fife at 3:30 p.m. and an away game at Rogers of Puyallup.We've got some early tests in the beginning, Ballew said. And then we open our league with Capital who is super strong this year.Ballew said Stadium and Gig Harbor will be the other tough teams in the Narrows League."

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