Sports

"Young, fast, talentedSpartan hardballers eye the district title."

"Speed. Defense. Pitching.This year's Mariner mantra also applies to the Spartan baseball team, which coach Mike Reese describes as a group of very talented baseball players with a lot of good young arms.Last year's team was 15-3 in the Olympic League, 17-4 overall. Lost to graduation were pitchers Jamie Hawkins and Thomas Henshaw, along with several big bats.This is one of the fastest teams I've seen in seven years of coaching, Reese says. Now we have to get on base and use our speed to our advantage. They'll need all the advantages they can get, as they open with three tough games right out of the gate: A visit to South Kitsap today. Perennial power North Kitsap in the home opener Tuesday. An away game with Port Angeles a week from Tuesday.This is a young team, Reese says. They need to understand what it takes to win. So we're going to go up against good teams, because that's the kind of team we'll meet in the playoffs.We should be just fine, says second-year pitching coach Jason Gore. We have five solid guys we're going to count on.Senior Chris Shaffer is slated to be the number one starter. A part-time starter and last year's closer, Shaffer recorded a 5-0 record that included two saves and a 1.40 earned run average. The No. 2 hurler is senior Matt Luria, 2-0 last year with a 6.00 ERA. Juniors Ross McKinstry and Steve Tawresey will compete for the No. 3 slot, with fellow junior Pat Crowthers slated as the closer.Junior Jeff Tracy, a JV player last year, will handle the staff as the starting catcher. He's solid defensively and a leader behind the plate, Reese says. Sophomore Troy Apro is his backup.Luria will play first when he's not pitching. He has a great glove, Reese says, and his bat's been coming around this spring. He's showing us he can hit. Stephen Peter-Contesse figures to play when Luria is on the mound.The rest of the infield is still unsettled. Top candidates are Crowthers (.316 last year, 3 RBI), junior Mike Botefuhr (.235, 5), Shaffer (.255, 12), McKinstry and junior Dustin Lounsberry. Scott Leslie and Joss Gramstead will also see playing time.We'll find out real quick who can play together, Reese says.Terming his outfield fast, Reese sees senior Zach Lieberman (.370, 9) as a fixture in right field, with Simon Pollack and Pat Fiander sharing time in center, and Lounsberry and Teddy Picha in left.Marc Rasmussen is the DH, and will hit fifth.He has great bat control and power, Reese says. He'll keep our runners moving.Reese anticipates a tight race for the Olympic League championship.The entire (Olympic) league is balanced for its final year of existence, he says. We're going to try to get our title back from 1999. It would be a great honor because the talent level is so high.North Kitsap is very solid and (coach) Steve Freese does a great job over there. Olympic has a new coach and the energy and talent to play good baseball. And Port Angeles has good pitching and young talent up the middle.Assistant coach Glenn Kellow - I'm the team's resident Don Zimmer. I bring age, wisdom and beauty to the dugout - sums up the team's success during the past two years.We bring a little more focus to the program, he says.We teach baseball as if it's an upper division high school course such as physics or language arts. We take it to the next level and try to get as many kids to play college baseball as we can. A byproduct is winning state championships.Bainbridge baseball has been close to that byproduct the past two years. If the juniors mature, the Spartans could again challenge. And what will be a senior-dominated team in 2002 should be a major contender. "

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