Sports

Nine reasons to stick with the B-town nine

WORDS FROM WESLEY

Any Pacific Northwesterner knows it takes time to right the ship of a struggling franchise or sports team.

Before 1995, the Mariners were as good as gone. Luckily, a slew of ‘95 September Houdini acts by Edgar, Jay and the boys kept the team and Seattle’s baseball dream alive.

And in the ‘90s — before Y2K — the Seahawks’ lights had seemingly shut off forever — the team posted more losing records than one-hit wonder MC Hammer — and hope was all but lost.

But the M’s and ‘Hawks survived those years, receiving much-needed help from the city, state and your average sports fan. Now, both teams remain competitive.

While Bremerton’s baseball team is no multimillion dollar franchise, nor will it be leaving town any time soon, it’s in the midst of a tough stretch a la Seattle baseball and football during the ‘90s.

That’s why I’d like to offer my own reasons for sticking by the Knights baseball team. Ups, down, ins and outs aside, there’s plenty of reason to believe the Knights can turn it around on the diamond.

Taking the helm, first-year Bremerton coach Ken Plowman inherited a struggling team, one that in past years had grown accustomed to losing ball games.

And while the team didn’t post a winning record this season, it remained competitive nearly every game, pulling out a couple victories along the way.

“I had a lot of encouragement from coaches around the league about our play on the field,” Plowman said Thursday morning, comparing this year’s team to those of the past. “Overall, I’m pretty happy with the way it came out.”

Timely hitting proved a challenge all season — senior pitcher Eli Olson often thew deep into games only to see the team fold late — and the Knights lost too many close games.

“I would have liked to win a couple more games,” Plowman critiqued. “I think we gave some away.”

Regardless, the Knights overcame grade troubles and the departure of two key seniors, giving every a opponent a run for its money.

“That was a goal for me, to keep our heads up and play the game to the best of our ability,” Plowman said of his players’ season-long perseverance.

Down four players to grades midway through the season, Plowman looked to younger talent from the junior varsity squad.

“We brought up some young guys who realized they could play at the varsity level,” Plowman said of underclassmen like freshman Max Hayes who stepped in, making immediate impacts. “In turn, I’m really looking forward to next year as we get a little older, a little stronger.”

And while Plowman has been around the game for a long time, like his young players, he still has much to learn.

“Being in my first year at the helm, I’m still learning too,” he confirmed. “And I told my players that.”

Designing a series of new drills, Plowman will look to sharpen his team’s skills in areas other than hitting.

“I’m working on drills for pick-off moves, small ball, first-and-third situations,” he explained.

That said, here are Wesley’s top nine reasons to believe in Bremerton baseball.

9. Lady luck: If you watched any Bremerton baseball this season, you know what I mean. Every

possible break went the wrong way for the Knights. They couldn’t by a good bounce. Pickles, bobbled balls, close games, questionable calls: You name it, the Knights were on the wrong end.

8. You can’t keep ‘em down forever: Teams don’t like to lose. The Knights want to win. It’s the bell curve of sports — teams inevitably reach lows before climbing to winning heights.

7. The numbers game: The team is on the right track, improving its win total from last year and the year before. Plowman and many key players return next year, and with more experience under their belt, the trend says they’ll build on that win total.

6. Talent returns: While Eli Olson will be sorely missed, the Knights have the tools in place to build a winner. Key contributors AJ Angle, Joel Brockman, Bret Brown, Bud Coy, Billy Davenport, Max Hayes, Travis Storey, Scott Burt and Queron Wallace all will return.

5. Confidence on the rise: Gaining experience this season, the team’s young players acquired valuable playing time. Everybody takes a lump or two before reaching the top.

4. Tools in place: Good coach + good staff + young talent + desire to win = a good shot at winning.

3. Hitting will improve: Plowman said Thursday he wants to look into an indoor batting facility to use on rainy days. The Knights’ ‘08 hitting woes stemmed from a lack of reps; it rained nearly every day this spring and consequently, the Knights didn’t get the hitting practice they needed.

2. Making the adjustment: Plowman knows what needs to improve and he’ll ensure those improvements are made. Citing small ball, base running and pick-off moves along with hitting, Plowman’s got a few tricks up his sleeve for next year.

1. We are the Knights: The Knights are synonymous with Bremerton. We’re all proud to be a part of this community and this is one of our teams. Let’s get behind ‘em.

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