She is new to the high school, but it did not take South Kitsap fastpitch coach Jessica Cabato long to gauge the state of the program.
“We all have the same goal this year of making it to state and doing very well this year,” she said. “They all agree they’re not content just to get there.”
The Wolves finished with a 12-15 record in Tami Lester-Dame’s lone season as coach in 2012, but advanced to the Class 4A state tournament for the first time in nine years.
Cabato, a 2000 Central Kitsap graduate, said she feels South has the ability to be successful. The Wolves lost some production when a pair of three-year starters, outfielder Erika Henderson and catcher Ericka Hobson, graduated. But Cabato feels the program returns plenty, including third-year varsity starter Ashley Chamberlin, who has hit in the middle of the order since her first game in 2011. When Chamberlin is not on the mound, Cabato said she will play first base. Madison Watson, a junior, also will see time as a pitcher.
The infield is close to set as the Wolves approach their Monday nonleague season-opener against Peninsula. Juniors Hannah Spohn (first base) and Tessah Tremper (third base) will handle the corners with senior Alyssa Buss, who also can pitch, at shortstop.
“She’s an outstanding middle infielder,” Cabato said of Buss.
That leaves second base open. Cabato said sophomores Hayley Romo and Drew Camacho are competing with junior Bailey Arnett, who is recovering from an injury, are competing for the starting position.
“Drew will get quite a bit of time for a sophomore,” Cabato said.
That not only will come at second base, but catcher. South traditionally has featured enviable depth at that position and this year is no different. In addition to Camacho, seniors Kayla Clauson and Emily Elam will vie for playing time there.
Cabato said Clauson’s arm strength and ability to “track the ball down” makes her a good fit for center field, too. Juniors Mackenzie Bergstrom and Chelsea Foster and sophomore Shelby Reyes also are expected to vie for playing time in the outfield.
As far as early impressions are concerned, Cabato said she has been impressed with the Wolves’ talent and leadership.
“They’ve been great to work with,” she said. “They understand that my expectations might be a little different than what they’ve had in the past. They make me want to come to practice each day.”
Cabato, who works as a training technician at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, pitched at Bethune-Cookman University in Florida before returning to the West Sound. She later guided Olympic College to a 91-64 record and four playoff appearances from 2008-11 before being let go by the school.
“The program was very successful,” she said. “The athletic director just wanted to go in a different direction.”
Cabato then rejoined CK’s program as an assistant to longtime coach Bruce Welling last spring. South hosts the Cougars in its first league game Wednesday. Welling announced earlier this year he plans to retire after the season and Cabato looks forward to competing against her mentor.
“I think it will be a lot of fun,” she said. “Maybe a little extra competitive.”
Busy could aptly describe Cabato’s schedule this spring. She also coaches her daughter’s 12U select team.
“I love this game,” she said. “I have a passion for watching kids grow and develop. I like coaching at the high school and college level because I enjoy the competition there.”