Sports

Pitching will make or break Wolves’ season

Kathy Ballew is trying to keep the pressure off of her young pitching staff. But the South Kitsap High School fastpitch coach said everyone knows the fate of the season will hinge on a trio of inexperienced pitchers.

After barely missing districts the past two years, SK has almost all the ingredients to make a triumphant return to the playoffs.

A bevy of starters return from last year’s team, which placed third in the Narrows League Bridge Division.

While questions loom about pitching, Ballew is content with her team’s offensive and defensive capabilities.

Senior Kelsey Herstad, a first-team all-league selection, returns at shortstop.

Senior Sara Brown (second base) and Cathy Kniess (outfield) — second team selections last year — also return.

Other returning starters include senior Ashley Robinson (third base), junior Jackie Binns (outfield) and sophomore Savannah Starkweather (catcher) — all honorable mention selections last year.

Jamie Peters will make her varsity debut in right field and Melissa Ballard has earned the starting nod at first base.

Ballew said sophomore Dawn Thomas will be the team’s ace this year. Juniors Jenny Rigg and Latisha Peredo will also see duty on the mound.

“They have no varsity experience, so the defense is going to have to be double strong,” Ballew said.

Ballew said her players understand the situation on the mound and will try to stay as upbeat as possible.

“I have a positive outlook,” Ballew said. “They’re aware of (the situation). They’re not going to try and make the pitchers feel bad. We’ll just have to get more players on the basepaths.”

SK won’t lack an offensive punch, and Ballew said she will try to produce as many runs as possible.

With the defunct Olympic League now in the Bridge Division, SK will play always tough Central Kitsap twice a year in the regular season.

Add Gig Harbor and Port Angeles in the mix and Ballew said it will be a more competitive league top to bottom than last year.

Ballew won’t be alone in the dugout this year, though.

After going years with just a junior varsity coach, Ballew has three other coaches helping out.

KC Butler takes over as the junior varsity coach and Eric Canton will be the first base coach besides coaching the “C” team.

Also volunteering as a coach is Jim Pendergast.

Ballew said she’s noticed a big difference at practice this year.

“If there’s nobody around to coach, you don’t get much done,” she said. “Having the coaches has been a huge help. There’s a lot more production on the field.”

SK opens its season at home Monday against Fife at 3:30 p.m.

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