Sports

Rain, rain go away

It is that time of year when the birds are singing and the rain just doesn’t know when to stop, which means only one thing — spring sports are starting. As the season revs up, Bremerton High School student-athletes have headed out to the soggy sports fields and gym confines to work on their games and hope for a drier tomorrow.

Baseball gets back

to the basics

Although Bremerton’s baseball team got four days of sunshine for its after school practices last week, the story hasn’t been the same since.

As showers continue, the team has been sharing the school’s gym with the fastpitch and tennis teams.

During their two- hour window, the baseball team hauls a makeshift artificial turf mound out for pitching practice. Then they wind down dividers and practice hitting and fielding in the other areas.

In the meantime, coach Mike McKnight has gotten a good gander at the talent of his team.

“The thing I like about the team this year is we’ve got a lot of guys that have had a lot of experience on the varsity level.”

McKnight is counting on the senior mojo of pitcher/firstbase/outfielder Noah Garguile, middle infielder Charlie Marza, third baseman Ron Gingrey, shortstop star Derrick West, outfield/pitcher Dean Jacobs and former North Kitsap student Raleigh Wilson.

This year, the team has an enthusiasm that is different than the year before.

“They like to play baseball,” McKnight said. “I like that. There’s a fine line between having fun and being good.”

This year, Bremerton doesn’t have as big a power hitting lineup as they have had in previous years.

“We’re going to have to rely on some defense,” McKnight said.

The coach admits he is a “skills guy.” He predicts South Kitsap, North Kitsap and Gig Harbor are going to win the 1-2-3 spots in league easy, but for his team to grab the fourth from Port Angeles, they will have to remember the basics.

So before the season starts, he has been working with the guys on things like getting your nose in the dirt (or gym floor) for a grounder and keeping your weight balanced on your swing.

“We teach hitting from the feet up,” McKnight said.

“Once you get into the season you don’t have time in between games to correct mistakes.”

Fastpitch puts hopes on growing participation

Numbers.

That’s the biggest difference this year for Bremerton’s fastpitch softball team.

In total, 30 girls tried out for this year’s team — twice as many as last year.

New coach Steve Chaussee counts both himself and a feeder program from Bremerton Junior High as the main reasons the numbers have skyrocketed.

As to whether the increased squad will bring home a win this year, only time will tell.

“We have really good arms this year,” said senior Cyndy McClanning, the team’s catcher.

“We’ve been a lot more serious this year.”

In previous years, the team was less organized and there was too much goosing around, McClanning said.

And even though their hitting wasn’t their hallmark last year, it is getting better, she said.

McClanning and her senior teammate Jordan Bushor, a pitcher, are very happy to have a totally new coaching staff. After seven years as an assistant coach, Chaussee is sitting pretty at the head position. Assisting is Jessica Cabato, who played fastpitch ball at a small NCAA Division I school.

“She used to play for Central Kitsap,” Chaussee said. “She’s been to the show and she knows.”

Chaussee hasn’t yet chosen who will play where, but he knows what his team needs to do this year.

“We just need to put the ball in play,” he said.

So far in practice, the team has been working on the technical aspects of hitting. They have been bunting and slapping and swinging away.

With the weather as it has been, the Knights’ home field has been, well, inside their gym. It’s got high ceilings but no dirt or batting cages.

“I just hope the season goes well and we win some games,” Bushor said with a smile.

Senior leadership

guiding Knights’ path

Since Bremerton’s boys golf team went undefeated in 1996 and clenched the Olympic League title, they have struggled to find the right ingredients to repeat such success.

But this year, coach Chuck Huhta said his team has a special ingredient.

It is called camaraderie.

“They all like each other,” he said. “They all eat lunch together, they study together. I never hear any put-downs. They treat each other with respect.”

Is that something new?

“It’s not like this every year,” Huhta said.

Huhta, whose wife Ursula coaches the girls tennis team, thinks his team’s chances are much better than last year.

“Most of our kids are seniors and they have been playing since ninth grade.”

There are six seniors on the team, including William Wallace, James Johnston, Ryan Hinrichson, Casey Adamski, John Galbraith and Brandon Johnston.

“For most of them, golf is the only sport they play,” Huhta said. “They are addicted to golf.”

Considering all of the things to be addicted to in the world, golf is a healthy one that teaches kids respect, Huhta said.

“Other sports have referees or umpires, but in golf you are your own. It is a game of honesty and integrity.”

Just like the girls team, the boys face some thick competition from across the water at South Kitsap, as well as from their Pierce county foes and North Kitsap.

“For us to win our No. 5 and No. 6 kids have to play well,” Huhta said.

Usually, Bremerton’s top four golfers ring in pretty good scores, but, the latter part of the lineup knocks the team out of contention.

“Every once in a while your best player has a bad day, and the other kids have to step up,” he said.

Both boys and girls golf teams play at Gold Mountain Golf Complex off of Old Belfair Valley Road.

The club is about 20 minutes from the school and boasts the ranking of the best public course in Washington for 2002 by Golfweek magazine.

There, the golfers practice their putting, chipping, bunker-play and drives, trying to hone their games before the season gets rolling.

Girls golf team getting better with age

Coach Jeff Streck was given a challenge last year to create a girls golf program from scratch.

Now in its sophomore year, the team contains a selection of young women that are smacking the ball better, but are still learning about the fundamentals of the game.

In fact, Olympic and North Kitsap high schools also created girls programs last year to recognize the growing involvement of female athletes in the sport.

“Our girls have positive attitudes about coming out and practicing, wanting to play and get better,” Streck said.

Anchoring the team is junior Emily Crawford.

“Emily is the most experienced,” Streck said.

Alongside Crawford is junior Sherri Berdine.

“Sherri was a first-time golfer last year,” he said. “She scored better every match she played in. She’s starting out miles ahead of where she started last year.”

Instead of going for the lowest score, high school golf is ruled differently. A double bogey on the hole earns a girl 2 points, and the points increase the lower you score. For instance, a birdie scores 5 points. Players compete as a team. The highest team score wins the head-to-head meet.

“The hardest part is just getting the word out that we have a program,” Streck said. “To anyone who has played golf they understand how difficult it is to play. But, in two days you can get drastically better.”

The girls team boasts the home course Gold Mountain Golf Complex, just like the boys team.

“We are lucky,” Streck said.

Although the Knights will compete against schools like Gig Harbor and Central Kitsap with longer-running golf programs, luck could swing in their favor this year with their own posse of more experienced swingers.

Tennis team ready to swing with the best

Below foreboding gray skies last Monday, the Bremerton girls tennis team ran laps around the Memorial Stadium track, getting in shape for a difficult Narrows League season.

Coach Ursula Huhta monitors her stopwatch and yells out the the times as the girls finish their laps.

Last year the team went 3-8 against their League opponents, but this year, the turnout has far exceeded Huhta’s imagination.

“The kids that are coming back are the ones we’ll have to count on,” she said. “They are going to be the strength of the team.”

Unlike the other sports at Bremerton High, the tennis team plays only league matches — against tough teams like the Port Angeles Roughriders or the South Kitsap Wolves.

Returning for Bremerton in the No. 1 singles position is the fiery, hard-hitting Iliana Petrova, a junior. Petrova can often be seen at the Bremerton Tennis and Athletic Club, practicing late into the evening on a treadmill or smacking balls on the court with other high schoolers.

She is not afraid to sweat it out for the sport.

With a strong backhand and forehand, she’s more apt to blow an opponent off the court like Venus Williams than tap the ball into the corners patiently waiting for an opening.

She will be supported by senior No. 2 singles player Kendra McConkey.

Some top doubles prospects for the Knights include juniors Brittani Erickson and Leilani Howard. Another fierce senior doubles player is Katie Popplewell.

It is Huhta’s sixth year behind the helm for the girl’s team.

She has also proven her coaching abilities with the Bremerton boys team as well this year, where sophomores Joel Trudell and Josh Sheving worked their way to the Class 4A State tournament to be held later this spring.

“We have a lot of ninth graders that are coming out,” she said about the girls team. Huhta estimates about half of her freshman are out because she saw them in the physical education class she teaches at the junior high school, and invited them to the courts.

Whatever brings home the trophies.

Track and field learning to live with wet nature

The track and field team may call Memorial Stadium their home but the facility on Ohio Avenue goes by the less flattering name, the “Wind Tunnel.”

About this time of the year, the rain starts coming down more frequently and the cold air whips through the sunken field and track, sending chills through anyone standing around.

But the team isn’t doing much standing around these days as they prepare for the long season ahead.

On an average practice day, Sean Blevins, Anthony Ragsdale, Tieba Bropleh and Dominique Bryant are running sprints on the rubber track. The football standouts will be Bremerton’s best shot for Narrows League glory in the 4-by- 100 relay and sprinting events. Speed is something they have in spades.

Chugging around them is Lih Kuhlman, the cross country star that should be a lethal threat in the longer distance events.

“We have some potential this year but there is still work to be done,” said coach Lloyd Pugh, now in his sixth season with the Knights after a lengthy tenure at South Kitsap.

“We have such a contest for athletes,” Pugh said mournfully. Many times, the baseball, soccer, track, fastpitch or tennis teams grab some of his team’s potential athletes.

“I think we have athletes to choose from — they just aren’t on our team.”

Over on another section of the track, senior Joe Miller is practicing his long distance run. The lean cross country star is hoping for some big improvements from last season.

“I want to run under nine minutes, 20 seconds for the 3,200 meters. That’s about two miles.” He said. “And around the 4:20 for the 1,600.”

Miller is using last year’s results as a stepping block.

“Last year I was really disappointed with my season,” said Miller, who fell ill midway through the team’s schedule in 2002. “But I am coming into this season in the best shape I’ve ever been in.”

Next to Miller, shotputter Matt Stacy was just finishing his workout.

“We will be tough,” he said of the Knights’ throwers.

Last year he ripped off the school record in the throw of 48 feet, 1 inch.

“I am throwing that average now,” he said. “ And this year I hope to beat the school record in the discus and the javelin, too.”

Soccer team has a few suprises in store

Bremerton’s boys soccer team has a couple surprises this year that put a grin on coach Lance McCoy’s face.

First is center forward Thomas Blyverket, a new exchange student from the Netherlands.

“He’s very quick, and he’s very strong,” McCoy said. “And he’s got a cannon of a shot. The guys on the team don’t even like to get in front of it.”

On a shooting exercise last week, McCoy fed balls on the ground so his team could take shots on goal.

When Blyverket got his chance, he smacked a ball so hard it slammed the very top of a school building and bounced near the road, about 60 feet away.

“I’m creating an offense around him,” McCoy said.

The fifth year coach (who also headed the high school girls team for the last time in the fall), expects to buck the expectation this year that Bremerton is unable of capturing some wins.

“This year’s group of kids just enjoys soccer,” he said. “They play year-round. They play with a lot of skill. And they attack.”

For the last couple years, the Knights have controlled the ball near the goal but they have not capitalized. Now that they have some big boots in Blyverket, Patrick Perkins and Keenon McWhorter, the scores could start ringing up.

“We have five or six kids that can beat you one-on-one,” he said. “I believe they can do anything.”

McCoy, who is an avid optimist and knows his soccer as much as anyone on the Kitsap Peninsula, wants his team to just stay loose and relaxed in the games. Sure, he makes them work on the fundamentals of passing, dribbling and headers, but when they suit up, he wants them to just play.

Additionally, the Knights may just have one of the tallest soccer players around — 6-foot-8 Marvin Williams who’s better known for his basketball exploits.

“He came to me and said he was interested,” McCoy recalled.

At first the coach didn’t believe him. Then a little over a week ago, Williams and basketball buddy Phil Houston came to McCoy with their completed paperwork. Williams said he’s just looking for some recreation outside of the hardwood. McCoys sees him as a strong backup goalie.

“Marvin is so athletic and so big,” McCoy said. “He’s getting his head and shoulders above the crossbar.”

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