Bainbridge Head Coach Haylee Baker talks with Grace Apel during the Bainbridge-Seattle Prep game. (Brian Kelly | Bainbridge Island Review)

Bainbridge Head Coach Haylee Baker talks with Grace Apel during the Bainbridge-Seattle Prep game. (Brian Kelly | Bainbridge Island Review)

Spring sports preview | Spartan squad looking at a major makeover this year

The fastpitch softball season is still young.

As so is much of the Spartan roster, for that matter.

“It’s a big group and it’s a very young group,” noted Bainbridge Head Coach Haylee Baker.

Young, indeed.

“We’ve got 10 freshman this year,” Baker said.

That’s more than half of the entire roster of 18 players. And with five sophomores and two juniors on the squad, that leaves one sole Spartan — pitcher Malia Peato — in the senior ranks.

“It’s a building year for sure,” Baker said.

“I’m pretty optimistic about it,” she quickly added, noting the upperclassmen who will be playing for Bainbridge.

At the junior level, that’s Abby Sullivan and Natalie Gillatt. The sophomore ranks include Elise Woods, Caroline Michaels, Ruby Raymundo, Anna Kozlosky and Mirander Grogger.

The freshmen 10 are Samara Hutchinson, Kylie Bushnell, Ellen Owen, Hayden Jobes, Kate Tlapa, Lillian McDonald, Madison Grandt, Grace Colburn, Grace Apel, and Leah Baker.

The lineup has seen a state of flux early this season, and factors there include the lack of a junior varsity team as well as the varied skill level of the players.

“Our focus is really to find positions for everybody,” Baker said. “A lot of these girls, some of them have been playing for a while. And some of them are brand-new.”

One of the most promising prospects this year is Colburn.

“She showed up to a lot of our off-season workouts,” the coach said. “She’s got all the basics down.”

Baker noted that jumping into varsity-level sports is a big leap to make for the first-year players, but the coach has liked what she has seen so far.

“They all have the attitudes for it,” said Baker, an all-star college player who took the helm of the Spartan squad as coach in 2016.

Retooling the team was unavoidable this year, with the number of seniors lost last year to graduation.

Last year’s team wrapped up the season with a 19-8 record and was 2-2 in the state tournament. Advancing to State in 2018 also marked the Spartans’ 12th consecutive trip to the big finale in Lacey, and 13th overall.

More pressing for this Spartan squad, of course, is navigating the Metro League and the regular season schedule.

“I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge; figuring out where everybody is going to help the team best, and really kind of breaking it down to the basics and kind of starting from the ground up,” the coach said.

“A lot of the girls have the basic skill level down; the base is there, it’s just pure knowledge of the game they lack,” Baker explained. “That’s what we need to focus on; getting that mental focus to the point where we know where the play is going and have that pre-pitch mentality.”

The Spartans will again depend a great deal on Peato in the circle this year for Bainbridge.

“She’s still got great potential on the mound and she’s got to bring it this year,” Baker said.

The Spartans also have to improve defensively to back her up, Baker said.

The offense was a bit of a question mark at the start of the season, but has since turned into more of an exclamation point.

The team lost its opener to Gig Harbor 15-0, but has since won four of its last six games.

Baker said Raymundo — who smacked a homer against rival Seattle Prep last week — has stepped up behind the plate for BHS, as well, in the catcher’s position.

“She’s been a rock star so far,” Baker said.

Raymundo’s confidence in the critical position will no doubt improve, as will the rest of the team’s play, in the games to come.

“It’s just a matter of tightening it up and getting that game experience,” Baker said.

The team returns from Spring Break with two home games, against Nathan Hale and Rainier Beach, before the Spartans return to the road for a meeting with Ballard.

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