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BHS baseball is (really) ready to play after two canceled season openers | SPRINGS SPORTS PREVIEW

BHS baseball player Tino Peleti dives for a catch during a practice session earlier this week. - Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review
BHS baseball player Tino Peleti dives for a catch during a practice session earlier this week.
— image credit: Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review

Maybe it was meant to be that the first two games of the Bainbridge High School varsity baseball season were canceled, moving their season opener to Thursday, March 20.

The first day of spring.

For truly, can there be a more sure sign of spring’s arrival than the return to the field of the home team for the start of another great season of America’s pastime?

“No other sport has the history like baseball does,” said returning BHS varsity baseball Head Coach David Smart.

“You can’t rewrite it,” he said. “While there are a lot of other sports that are here today and competing for people’s attention you’re just never going to have the history, you’re never going to have the Ty Cobbs, the Willie Mays. There’s a great lineage of players that everybody knows, and you have to say it’s still the great American pastime just based on that.”

As for the first game coinciding the start of spring, Smart is hesitant to read too much into the coincidence.

“We had a bunch of water in our outfield [Monday],” he said at Tuesday’s practice. “Spring around here probably means it’ll rain and we’ll get some snow or something good like that.”

Still, though the Spartans are 0-2 against the weather so far, Smart is equally sure that the team is ready to start their season.

“I really like the way we’ve been hitting,” he said. “A couple of years ago we just didn’t hit very well, so the way we’re hitting right now seems great.

“Sometimes it’s hard to get a feel for how you’re pitching is when you can’t see it against other people, people who haven’t faced your guys,” he added. “We learn a lot in these early, non-league games, and try to figure out where we stack up. We’re pretty encouraged by what we see. We’re really excited about the year.”

Though an official starting lineup was still being finalized as of earlier this week, Smart said that the team’s roster was full of talented players at every level.

“We’ve got a very strong returning core,” he said. “We only lost three starters from last year.”

Smart said that Sam Tiffany will most likely return as the Spartan’s starting catcher this year. He also said that Ben Kussie, an infielder last year, will be playing in the short stop position and Dylan Vchulek will take over center field.

“Trent Schulte and Duncan McCombs were sophomores last year, and they’re going to be good juniors who will contribute this year,” Smart said.

Smart also said that fans could look forward to the return of Tino Peleti, who ended last year’s season on a bit of a hot streak.

Smart recalled that during the final game of the season last year against Seattle Preparatory, the other team’s pitcher decided to neutralize Peleti the only way he knew how.

“I think they walked him every at bat,” Smart said. “It was one of those things you just don’t see at this level, when kids don’t have the opportunity to hit, but it’s the ultimate sign of respect. He’s a very talented player.”

Spartan sports fans should also be on the lookout for some talented newer players as well, said Smart.

“[BHS junior] Brice Kozlosky is going to pitch for us this year,” he said. “Jack O’Niell; he’s hitting the ball really well and he’ll definitely see some playing time. Max Thomas is another junior who can catch or play infield, and he’s also swinging a good bat.”

As for the rest of the lineup, Smart said the last few practices would be critical to his decision.

“We like to promote competition so [we’re still] figuring out who’s going to be where and how that’s all going to factor in,” he said. “I think that everyone who’s on the varsity squad is going to play in some capacity at some point, it’s just a matter of where they’re at.”

It’s extremely difficult to tell in advance which teams will be the most difficult competitors, said Smart (himself a Lakeside graduate), because things can change so quickly for a baseball team.

“It always varies year-to-year,” he explained. “Last year Eastside Catholic was really good and they had some misfortunes go their way and they didn’t continue on. This year, I know Lakeside has a couple of really good pitchers so they’re going to be a competitive team day in and day out. O’Dea has always been very good. It’s kind of the same group [that] is always very good. A lot of these coaches have been there for 20 years. The coach at Lakeside was my coach when I was there.”

Smart describes his own coaching style as “involved,” and will often lead team drills himself.

“They’re hitting live off me throwing and when I’m out there it’s a lot of demonstrative [exercises],” he said. “Whether it’s throwing and pitching, whether it’s walking through a pitching rotation talking to the kids about how to pitch and just the mindset, it’s all as a group, all part of it.”

Whether or not the spring 2014 Spartan lineup is final remains to be seen.

What finally does appear certain, however, is that they will start their season at home Thursday, March 20 against Central Kitsap.

 

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