Fastpitchers look for new beginning

"A new season and a new beginning for the Bainbridge fastpitch softball team?Consider the following:* For the first time in memory, so many girls turned out that cuts were necessary, and both the varsity and JV squads have full complements of players;* First-year coach Bill Clement has eight solid years of fastpitch coaching experience, including two years leading the North Kitsap team;* The Spartans have experience and depth at pitching, especially in the person of newcomer Brooke Hilton, a junior immigrant from Utah, and* The team opened the season with not just a win but a domination - a 14-0 victory over Nathan Hale, called after five innings when the 10-run rule kicked in. The Spartans followed up with a rain-shortened 3-3 standoff against Franklin Pierce, a solid 3A team.We have a realistic chance to go the the district tournament this year, Clement said. After the Franklin Pierce game, their coach said they expect to see us at district. That's the kind of thing that gives our players the confidence they need to succeed.A critical component of Clement's optimism is the growth of competitive summer fastpitch play on the island. The girls are getting more chances to play, he said, which not only develops skills, but generates interest among more potential players. It's been hard in the past to compete with some of our own programs, particularly girls' lacrosse, for the good athletes, Clement said. The JV squad boasts 15 players, and some of them are ready to play at the varsity level, Clement said. That keeps our girls on their toes, when I remind them that somebody on JV wants their uniform.Clement points to defense as a team strength, particularly the middle infield tandem of seniors Anne Vail at second base and senior co-captain Krista Bucat at shortstop. The corner positions are up for grabs, with sophomore Amanda Perna and senior Beth Minyard competing for time at first base, and sophomores Angie Rapada and Bianca Quesada contending at third. Senior Katie Leigh, the other co-captain, is slotted at middle infield when she is not pitching. Laura Parsons, another senior, will catch.The outfield at this point will be senior Carolyn McKenzie, sophomore Caiti Kruse and freshman Chrissy Haugen, who will also see some time on the mound. Pitching of course, is the key ingredient in fastpitch, and Clement is excited about having three quality pitchers in Hilton, Leigh and Haugen. Brooke (Hilton) throws real hard, so we see lots of balls to right, and have a chance to make outs at first base, Clement said. Clement says hitting is the team's weak spot now, but he is optimistic about improvement as the season progresses."

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