Sports

Monagle, Steiger reunite in Husky, Cougar uniforms

They served as the lefty-righty middle of a lineup combination that powered South Kitsap’s baseball team to the Class 4A state playoffs.

But one year later, Collin Monagle and Brady Steiger sit in opposite dugouts and have noticeably different circumstances as both adjust to the collegiate game.

The two met again last week for a three-game series at Husky Ballpark in Seattle, where Monagle’s Huskies won two games against Steiger’s Cougars.

Monagle was asked if he would call or text his former teammate after UW had a 3-2 come-from-behind win in the opener when WSU left fielder Brett Jacobs dropped a fly ball with two outs in the ninth inning that allowed the Huskies to score twice.

“Text,” Monagle said with a laugh. “I will rub it in a little bit.”

It was one of the few times the 6-foot-3 right-hander has been able to celebrate this year. Monagle was limited to 5 2/3 innings last year after undergoing shoulder surgery before the season started and not much has changed this season.

“I hurt my elbow a couple of weeks back,” Monagle said. “I am not really sure if I am going to redshirt or come back late. I am just working hard and trying to get the arm back in shape.”

He might not even take the mound this season.

As he was preparing for the year, Monagle felt some familiar pain.

“The shoulder wasn’t as ready as I thought it would be in the beginning, so I struggled,” he said. “I spent most of the winter trying to strengthen it and felt really good. Everything was coming out live ... and a week later I strained my shoulder.”

Monagle returned after a three-week layoff at that point before hurting his elbow last month. He said he believes his mechanics are good — Monagle worked with former major-league pitcher David Wainhouse with Chaffey Baseball — but said the ongoing layoffs from the game likely are the culprit behind his reoccurring injuries.

“I haven’t really thrown since I was 16 years old,” he said.

First-year UW coach Lindsay Meggs said it is difficult to evaluate Monagle’s future prospects because he did not recruit him. Monagle was signed by former coach Ken Knutson, who was fired in June after 17 years.

“I feel bad for Collin,” Meggs said. “He’s in a tough spot. Hopefully, he gets back to the point where he’s physically able to compete like he did at one time.”

Meggs said Monagle is handling the situation well and has volunteered to help the team during practice by hitting off a fungo bat or corralling fly balls in the outfield. He said it remains too early to determine whether Monagle will pitch this season.

“The one thing you don’t want to do is burn a year of eligibility if he can only throw 10 innings,” Meggs said.

Steiger said he was looking forward to catching up with his former teammate, who hit one spot behind him at No. 4 last year. While Steiger played this season, he has encountered his own challenges in getting onto the field.

His only appearance against the Huskies came when he grounded out as a pinch-hitter in the eighth-inning of a 4-3 loss in the series finale Saturday. He had a .318 average in 22 at-bats following the UW series.

Steiger said he knew earning playing time would be difficult this year. After all, the Cougars advanced to the NCAA Regionals in 2009 and returned third baseman Matt Argyropoulos and first baseman Ryan Peterson at Steiger’s two best positions.

Still, he said, “these guys are great. They teach me what I need to know.”

But having veterans in front of him is not the only reason why Steiger’s playing time has been limited — WSU coach Don Marbut also wants to see improved defense at both first and third base.

That is one of the few concerns he has about his pupil, though. He raved about Steiger’s work ethic on the field as well as in the classroom and his offensive potential.

“He can really swing the bat and is a hard worker,” Marbut said. “I see him having a bright future for the Cougs.”

Steiger joked that it is easier now that former Olympia High standout Adam Conley is a teammate. Conley nearly pitched a no-hitter in 2008 against South until Monagle doubled with two outs in the seventh inning. The left-handed sophomore now is the Cougars’ closer.

“I’ve faced him a couple of times in practice and he still owns me,” Steiger said. “It’s great to have him on our side.”

He said he is trying to spend extra time with volunteer assistant Gabe Boruff to work on his swing.

“He’s the most amazing guy I’ve ever been around,” Steiger said. “He’s developing me into a college player.”

And despite the outcome of the series against the Huskies, he is excited about the rest of the season. The schedule does not get any easier this week as WSU hosts Arizona State, which has a 27-1 record, in a three-game series at Bailey-Brayton Field.

“I can’t wait to see what’s in front of us for the rest of the Pac-10 season,” Steiger said. “It should be good.”

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