Sports

Knights searching for answers

After the Bremerton Knights baseball team won only a single game this year, coach Mike McKnight already is brainstorming a plan to turn things around next spring.

He wants to start up a summer baseball team such as the Knights, who finished 1-19, used to have in the Senior Babe Ruth league.

“Summer ball would make a great difference,” Bremerton center fielder Ian Mateikat said.

McKnight is asking athletes to lift more weights during the offseason to keep their muscles active.

Additionally, he wants to create training programs for kids when they are just in elementary school, so he doesn’t have to teach them as varsity members.

“We’ve got guys this year that haven’t played too much, that have only played school ball,” he said. “Whenever anyone else is playing all summer, they are going to get better.”

When McKnight found out there would only be five seniors on the Knights team this year, he brought in two more coaches, Daniel Campbell (Bremerton High alumni, ’95) and Bryant Owens (Bremerton High alumni, ’97) to get the kids a little more coaching.

“We’ve gotten better,” he said.

But with a regular-season schedule that often has three games per week in addition to lost time because of Northwest weather, there is little to teach fundamentals during the season.

That’s not the only concern that resonates from others at the school.

“A big problem a lot of our athletes have is we are a 4A school, but they count Renaissance and that’s a big problem because no one from there plays sports,” said Mateikat, referring to the alternative high school. “A lot of us think we should be 3A.”

Bremerton barely makes it over the 1,200 mark to be a 4A school with their student total of 1,293 — counting the 185 students at Renaissance. That number is used by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association to determine size classifications such as 4A or 3A.

Bremerton’s actual student enrollment is 1,107 students. North Kitsap has 1,400 students and South Kitsap has 2,292.

McKnight says the Knights are at a disadvantage in the Narrows league and often come up with losing teams because they simply have a smaller pool of athletes to choose from.

“Look, we had Marvin Williams, but even that couldn’t save us,” he said.

Williams is one of the most highly touted basketball players to ever play in Washington State, and is headed to the University of North Carolina on a full-ride athletic scholarship. But his team couldn’t make it into the Narrows League playoffs in the three years he played.

When asked what advice he can give to make Bremerton baseball more successful, Mateikat said getting more bodies on the field is the most important.

“My advice is to the other students — just come out and play,” he said. “Really, more bodies would help.”

This year, McKnight regularly inserted junior-varsity players in the starting lineup.

“We knew we would try to pitch by committee,” he said.

After a couple injuries, the pitching rotation became senior Jeff Lee, sophomore Justin Rash and senior Robbie Robinson. Both Robinson and Rash had no high school pitching experience before. They were going against opposing teams whose pitchers had been training since elementary school.

The hitting wasn’t much better. The most runs the Knights scored was eight against Shelton on March 29 and March 16. They were outscored into the last week of the season, 222-47.

“I’m doing all I can to help them be successful,” McKnight said. “I think when you are having a losing season you work harder.”

McKnight thought his team could win at least half the games they played this year.

But a 36-0 beating by Chimicum High School on the second game of the year on March 17 proved indicative of the rest of the season.

Sometimes the losses were close, such as the 10-8 loss against Shelton on March 29. But the Knights also lost both games against NK by a combined 45-0.

Their only win came against Stadium, 5-4 on Tuesday.

“It’s sort of like the football season,” said McKnight, who also coached the Bremerton football team.

“There’s been times we started five sophomores,” he said. “Good 16-year-olds don’t beat up on good 18-year-olds. We’re a small 4A school so when you are trying to compete year in and year out with bigger schools, you are going to get beat.”

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