Strong turnout has fastpitchers on rise

Stephanie Wagner warms up in the Commodore gym. The junior third baseman  led the team with 18 RBIs and had a .315 batting average last season. - JULIE BUSCH photo
Stephanie Wagner warms up in the Commodore gym. The junior third baseman led the team with 18 RBIs and had a .315 batting average last season.
— image credit: JULIE BUSCH photo

A solid core of returning players will be backed up by a JV squad this season.

Last year, everything was new for the Spartan fastpitch team.

And Marci Morford admitted things were “a little tense” as they tried to get used to all the changes.

“Last season, there were some people’s friends that got cut, we had new coaches and no returning players because no one knew the coaches,” the senior said. “But now I feel like everyone is happy to be here.

“It’s not like we came in with a bad attitude last year, but we have enough girls for two teams, nobody got cut. Everybody’s having a good time.”

Junior Stephanie Wagner agreed.

“This year, everyone is getting along really well,” she said. “Everyone did great last year, but it took time for us to get to know each other and work together as a team. This year it’s clicking really fast.”

Teamwork is one of the keys to what many feel is a vastly improved team as the Spartans get ready for the 2006 prep season.

Bainbridge went 9-14 and finished fourth in the Metro League Mountain Division last year, but made it to the district tournament.

They lost six players from last season, but just two starters in shortstop Amanda Szarzynski, who graduated, and catcher Tabitha Mabrey, who moved to Idaho.

Second year head coach Liz McCloskey also loses assistant coach Katie Leigh during varsity games, as enough players turned out this season to field a junior varsity team, which Leigh will lead.

“(Leigh) and I will have to get used to not having each other around,” McCloskey said. “I think it will be good for her because I know she wants to try and run her own team. I think it will be fun. I think she’ll really enjoy it.”

The varsity and JV squads will practice together, though, and several people have expressed interest in serving as assistant coaches.

Seven players, all of them starters, return to the Spartan varsity squad for the new campaign.

Sophomore Karen Robinson returns to the mound as the ace, but will catch a few games as well.

Robinson went 7-14 with a 4.26 ERA and 57 strikeouts last year, and McCloskey feels that she’s ready for a breakout year after working hard in the offseason.

“She’s come up with a couple of new pitches,” McCloskey said. “She’s been throwing them real well.”

Junior Kelcee Azure is back in center field, while Morford and Wagner take up their old spots at first base and third base, respectively.

Junior Chelsea Baker starts at second base, while senior Anna Lyons splits time in the infield and outfield and senior Chelsea Hansen mans the outfield.

Five newcomers round out the squad, with junior Meika Monroe slated to take over Mabrey’s spot as catcher.

“She knows the game better than anybody on this team,” McCloskey said “Between her and Karen, we’re going to have a very good set at the catcher’s position.”

Joining her are four freshman; infielder/outfielder Chelsie Kakela; shortstop Cara Thompson; pitcher/first baseman Lindsay Willman, who will start a few games on the hill; and catcher/second baseman Brittany Wisher.

“The kids that we brought in that are new, I think they’re going to bring that missing spark that we didn’t have last year,” McCloskey said. “I’ve never seen kids hit the ball so hard. We did batting practice (last) Tuesday and to see these 15-year-old, 16-year-olds ripping the ball down the first base line is just amazing.”

If the new kids come through at the plate, they’ll help shore up an offense that posted just a .226 team batting average and had an on-base percentage of .338.

Morford feels their batting and their fielding – the Spartans committed 75 errors last year and had a team fielding percentage of .898 – will improve with more players, which means more time split at practice to spend on the two areas.

“Last season we didn’t spend any time in the batting cages,” Morford said. “I think spending time in the cages will help our batting, and if we get our batting going then we can start scoring, which will be fantastic.”

And if they can get their bats going, they’ll improve on their standing in the Metro League and contend for a title.

McCloskey likes where they’re going.

“Katie and I, we sat down after tryouts and we just looked at one another and we knew from day one that the talent that’s going to be on this field is amazing,” she said. “As I said to them, no one expected us to win two games (last year). We have the talent and ability to win five to six more games than last year.

“It’s going to be really fun.”

Bainbridge opens the season March 13 at home against rival North Kitsap.

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