Hardballers ready to defend Metro title

Senior shortstop Matt Frazee pitches to senior third baseman Brendan Gent in the Commodore gym. Frazee led the team in nearly every offensive category last year, while Gent hit .303 and tied for second with Zach Peach in hits with 20.  - JULIE BUSCH photo
Senior shortstop Matt Frazee pitches to senior third baseman Brendan Gent in the Commodore gym. Frazee led the team in nearly every offensive category last year, while Gent hit .303 and tied for second with Zach Peach in hits with 20.
— image credit: JULIE BUSCH photo

The starting infield returns intact, and senior C.J. Hall is back as staff ace.

It was a Christmas-like atmosphere Monday with Bainbridge head baseball coach Jayson Gore passing out new gear for his players.

Most of it was standard fare, as he handed out socks, pants, belts, travel bags and the like.

But two items got him and the players excited – brand-new yellow mesh jerseys that will have the name of each player embroidered on the back, and yellow T-shirts that say “2005 3A Metro League Champions” on the back.

“It’s pretty cool,” senior Zach Peach said of the shirt’s significance. “We worked hard for it and it just makes this year that much more exciting.”

But with the title comes the challenge of not only repeating as champions, but also dealing with the pressure of expecting to contend for a state title for the 2006 prep season.

Gore said the key for his team is dealing with those new expectations.

“We’re in uncharted territory here,” he said. “It’s going to be how we deal with failure that determines how much success we can achieve, because it’s baseball. That’s why you play the game.

“It all looks good on paper, but in the end you gotta throw the first pitch of the game.”

On paper, they’ll be in good hands with their infield returning intact for the third straight year: third baseman Brendan Gent, shortstop Zach Peach and second baseman Matt Frazee, all seniors, and junior first baseman Robbie Stevenson.

“You don’t find many teams that can do that, so we’ve been lucky in that (sense,)” Frazee said. “We’re pretty strong right now.”

But they are expected to play different positions, as Bainbridge must replace two-thirds of their outfield as Blake Jensen and David Lantz graduated and their second and third starters in Jordan Schager and Ranger Sciacca, who graduated as well.

To complement senior ace C.J. Hall, Frazee and Peach will make some appearances on the mound along with seniors Josh Truan, Nick Browning and Cameron Wagner and junior Michael Heald.

Also in the mix to pitch are several newcomers, including juniors Nick Tsoloimitis and Tal Glass.

Gore even expects a few JV players to swing up to varsity play and pitch, including Colin Feldtman.

Heald is back in right field, but several other players are slated to get some time in the outfield, including Wagner, senior JK Spencer, Hall, Browning, Glass, Stevenson, junior Matt Gaphni and senior Tim Draluck.

“It’s kinda in the air right now,” said Frazee. “It’s still up for grabs for all the players. But I think we can put together a strong outfield.”

While the outfield and pitching are question marks, Gore isn’t worried about the bats (they hit .298 as a team last year) or their fielding (54 errors total, but just 11 in their last eight games.)

Peach feels their experience is another positive.

They just want to get on the field and take it one game at a time to defend their title and make it back to state against a Metro League in transition with many of the top players lost to graduation. Seattle Prep, Bishop Blanchet and last year’s state champs, O’Dea, appear to be the contenders to their title.

Frazee feels that’s their mindset going into the season.

“I think a lot of teams would take it as pressure,” he said of the expectations placed on the Spartans. “But this team is pretty relaxed. We all know we’re supposed to do well, and some of the younger kids might be a bit nervous, but for the most part, all the upperclassmen are taking it like it’s just another year.”

Peach feels it will be a lost year if they don’t make it to the state semifinals, (which moved to Safeco Field for the next two years,) especially if the way they lost to Mark Morris in the first round of state last year is their only appearance during their time at Bainbridge.

“We have to take each step as it comes, but it will be a disappointment if we don’t make it to the semifinals,” he said. “We’ve got the team and I think we should be there.”

Gore just wants to get the season underway so he doesn’t have to deal with the day-to-day minutiae of equipment and fundraising and a million other things a head coach deals with in getting ready for a season.

But he doesn’t feel the expectations will make a difference with the team.

“We would like to play in Safeco Field,” he said. “That’s a huge incentive right there. The kids know that expectations are meaningless at this point and they’re going to have to work their butts off to get there.

“We’re highly motivated to get to where we want to go.”

The Spartan varisty and JV play at the Central Kitsap Jamboree Saturday, then open the season March 13 at their rival North Kitsap.

They travel to Garfield on March 15 before making their home debut against Rainier Beach on St. Patrick’s Day.

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