Wolves offer more than just talented twosome

Coach: Jim Fairweather, sixth season.

Key returners: C/RHP Gordy Anderson, jr.; IF Mitch Cartwright, jr.; OF Brad Fairweather, sr.; 2B Ghryn Hobson, sr.; OF Charlie Hough, sr.; IF/RHP Ricky Johnson, jr.; LHP/1B Scott McGallion, sr.; RHP Collin Monagle, sr.; SS Brady Steiger, sr.

Key departures: C Todd Dalrymple, graduated; RHP Adam Douty, graduated; RHP Drew Saddler, graduated; SS Tyler Sartor, graduated; OF Chris Sizemore, sr.

South Kitsap might feature its most talented duo since Willie Bloomquist and Jason Ellison combined to guide the Wolves to a 1996 state championship.

Of course, retired coach Elton Goodwin maintains that was the most talented squad among the three he led to state titles.

And several South players acknowledge they have plenty to prove after last season.

The Wolves advanced to state for the second time in Jim Fairweather’s five years as coach, but lost 23-2 in the first round of the tournament against Bothell at Kent Memorial Field. It was South’s largest margin of defeat in 46 state playoff games.

“It puts a bitter taste in your mouth,” senior second baseman Ghryn Hobson said. “Never roll over and give up. It just more incentive to go beyond that and do well this year. We’re not going through that again.”

South features perhaps the most talented senior combination in the state with University of Washington-bound pitcher Collin Monagle and shortstop Brady Steiger. The two are ranked in the top 14 prospects in Baseball Northwest’s “Class of 2009 Super Sixty.”

Monagle mostly was limited to designated hitter last year because of arm problems — he had surgery during the summer to repair a torn labrum — but Fairweather expects the right-hander to be available to pitch this season. In 2007, he had 22 strikeouts and a 3.23 ERA in 21 2/3 innings.

“We got good news with Collin Monagle,” said Fairweather, adding that he likely will be limited to 45-50 pitches per outing. “He should be 100 percent by the time we get rolling.”

Without Monagle or Brad Johnson, who didn’t play his senior season because of academic issues, the Wolves went from starters who threw 90 mph or better to those who couldn’t hit 80.

Among those starters was Adam Douty, whom Fairweather wasn’t certain would make the team during tryouts. Instead, he finished with a 3-2 record and a 3.80 ERA, walking just six batters in 23 2/3 innings during the regular season.

But Douty graduated, which means senior left-hander Scott McGallian likely will serve as the No. 2 starter.

“He’s very Jamie Moyer-like,” said Fairweather, referring to the Philadelphia Phillies start. “He can sneak a fastball by you.”

The bullpen isn’t quite as established, but one player that got Fairweather’s attention in the Bothell blowout was junior Gordy Anderson, who also is contending with senior Gavin Fazio for the starting position at catcher.

“Gordy got after people, which I really liked,” he said.

If South can prevent runs, its offense might be potent enough to improve on last year’s 11-3 record in Narrows League play and 15-6 overall mark. The offense is led by Steiger, who signed to play next season at Washington State. Steiger, who was named to the Washington State Baseball Coaches Association Class 4A first team in 2008, hit .418 with five home runs and 23 RBI. He also was named MVP of the Narrows League Bridge Division.

“We’re looking really strong in the lineup,” Steiger said. “Maybe even better than last year.”

Fairweather always expresses the value of defense, and he moved Steiger from third base to shortstop because of that. Steiger said he plans to play third base in college, but has no problem with the move.

“I played short up until last year,” he said. “There’s a little more movement. It will be fun.”

Hobson also returns and Fairweather plans to hit him fifth. He hit .431 with eight doubles, two stolen bases, one home run and 14 RBI during the regular season.

The rest of the infield is open. Fairweather said McGallion and Ricky Johnson, who also pitches, can play first base. Johnson also is competing fellow junior Mitch Cartwright for the job at third base.

Fairweather hoped to return two starters in the outfield, but senior Chris Sizemore will miss the season because of a hernia. Sizemore, who played center field, was regarded as one of the Wolves’ best defensive players last year.

“That’s really sad,” Fairweather said. “We love that kid.”

Senior Charlie Hough moved from infield to outfield last year and likely will take over center field. Fairweather feels his athleticism makes him a good fit in that position. After batting second in 2008, he probably will hit leadoff.

“The only difference is you’re a leader like the middle infield,” said Hough, referring to the move to center field. “It’s what the team needs and I’m ready to step up.”

Fairweather expects Monagle to return to the outfield when he isn’t pitching. Monagle played there as a sophomore, and Fairweather likes that his pitchers also have the ability to play the field. He said that hasn’t been the case in recent years.

Brad Fairweather also might see time in the outfield depending on the health of his arm. Fairweather broke the scaphoid bone in his right wrist during football season, and won’t be ready for the beginning of baseball season.

According to the elder Fairweather, “there’s some battles for spots that aren’t locked up.” He said the coaching staff has about a dozen players in mind for varsity spots, but he would like to add a couple more players.

That might leave some room for several players in the sophomore class that is eliciting excitement. But with an upperclassmen-laden squad, many of those players might spend most of the season at the junior-varsity level to gain experience.

And Fairweather likes the mentality of those experienced players.

“I think we’re going to have pretty good leadership,” he said. “We have guys who have been in the fight and they understand what it takes to get what our goals are.”

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