Wolves' inexperience, lack of depth won't deter them

Coach: Kathy Ballew, 20th season.

Key returners: 2B Brandy Ball, sr.; OF Cortney Echternach, sr.; RHP/OF Sam Jacobs, sr.; 3B Ally Johnson, sr.; SS/OF Holly Lider, jr.; 1B Alexis Odell, jr.; C/1B Trish Tremper, jr.

Key departures: C Breann Booher, sr.; RHP Felitia Buss, graduated; 3B Kirstie Cosgrove, graduated; 1B Monique Morey, graduated; OF Shiloah Soete-Riedel, graduated.

Given the squad’s inexperience and lack of depth, this might be a difficult season for South Kitsap’s fastpitch team.

Just don’t tell senior Sam Jacobs that.

“I think we’re going to be stronger than last year,” she said. “We’re more focused and serious about it than last year.”

The Wolves return just four seniors from a team that finished 7-7 in the Narrows League and 8-10 overall last year. But some of those players are among the best of the 23 listed on the roster.

South’s infield might be the team’s strength, even with the graduations of third baseman Kirstie Cosgrove and first baseman Monique Morey. Senior Ally Johnson, who signed to play at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro next season, likely will shift from shortstop to third base. She had a .410 batting average, two doubles, two triples and a team-high 11 RBI last season.

Coach Kathy Ballew said she plans to move Johnson to third base to make room for junior Holly Lider at shortstop.

“She’s quick and has a lot of athletic ability,” Ballew said.

Second base likely will be filled by Brandy Ball, but Ballew said the senior will miss some of the early nonleague games due to a hip injury.

“We don’t want to get her back in there too early,” Ballew said. “We’re going to have to piece some things together until we get healthy.”

That also applies to catcher. Junior Trish Tremper figures to play that position regularly, but she’s sidelined with pneumonia now.

Catcher has been perhaps the team’s strongest position in recent years. Caty Lieseke was a honorable mention all-state selection in 2007 when she led the Wolves in batting average (.481) and home runs (three).

Ballew tabbed Breann Booher, who hit .473 with a team-best 21 RBI in 2007, to replace Tremper. But Ballew said Booher, who missed most of last season with arm problems, will undergo surgery to correct her biceps injury and won’t play this year.

Despite that, Ballew is excited about the depth at catcher. In addition to Tremper, she believes sophomore Stephanie Valdez could contribute at that position.

“Sometimes it doesn’t happen that way,” she said. “It’s nice to have.”

Tremper also can play first base, but junior Alexis Odell figures to get most of the playing time at that position. Odell was a starting pitcher last season, but Ballew said she won’t return to that role.

“She’s taken herself off the mound,” she said. “She got spooked on her summer team. A ball came right back at her in the one of the first games.”

Odell and Felitia Buss, who graduated, were South’s top two starters last season. Ballew said she probably will go with a “committee” approach this year. Jacobs, who throws a fastball, change-up, screwball and dropball, and sophomore Emily Cunningham figure into the equation.

“(Cunningham) throws the hardest, but I’m not sure about the movement on the pitches yet,” Ballew said. “We’ll find out when we get her out there.”

Both Cunningham — the sister of Oakland Athletics outfielder Aaron Cunningham — and Jacobs will see time in the outfield when they aren’t pitching.

The depth in the outfield is enough of a concern that Ballew said Lider might play there instead of shortstop. Only senior left fielder Cortney Echternach is entrenched at her position. She hit .360 with eight RBI and finished with team-highs in home runs (four) and doubles (five) in 2008.

South opens its season at noon Saturday with a nonleague game at Spanaway Lake, and Jacobs is excited to see how much improvement her team has made.

“We’re going to go further than we did last season,” she said. “Maybe even to state.”

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