Knight hardballers shooting for .500 season

(Above) Bremerton baseball coach Ken Plowman (center) talks to his team — and a few aspiring players — during a tryout at Legion Field in Bremerton Tuesday. (Below) More than 30 players turned out for BHS’ baseball tryouts. Plowman said he’d keep about 15 on the varsity team. - Wesley Remmer/staff photos
(Above) Bremerton baseball coach Ken Plowman (center) talks to his team — and a few aspiring players — during a tryout at Legion Field in Bremerton Tuesday. (Below) More than 30 players turned out for BHS’ baseball tryouts. Plowman said he’d keep about 15 on the varsity team.
— image credit: Wesley Remmer/staff photos

With the 2009 season-opener just 10 days away, the Bremerton baseball team is set to improve upon its 2008 season, which ended before the postseason began.

The Knights are coming off a disappointing 4-13 season in which they lost four games by two runs or less and beat just two teams — Port Townsend three times and Kingston once.

But coach Ken Plowman, who had yet to finalize his roster as of Wednesday, said during a tryout Tuesday he expects this year’s Knights to be markedly better than the 2008 squad.

“They flat out don’t like to lose, they’re not accepting losing like some of the Bremerton clubs did in the past,” Plowman said. “I think our team attitude last year was good; I think this year’s attitude will be even better.”

The team, however, is without star Eli Olson, who graduated in June. Olson was the team’s No. 1 pitcher as well as most productive hitter. To fill the void, Plowman hopes to put a more balanced lineup on the field.

“There’s really no replacing Eli. Eli was a very, very special athlete,” Plowman said. “We’re going to replace Eli with numbers ... We don’t have that superstar that Eli was, but we have a lot of guys that can really step up and make a difference as a team. That’s really what we’re looking for this year.”

“As a team as a whole, we’re going to be stronger position-by-position, player-by-player. I think we’re definitely going to have a better defensive team this year and the hitting will take care of itself.”

Plowman will turn to a quintet of juniors — Brett Brown, Billy Davenport, Josh Fisher, Shane Monday and Ryan Story — to carry a bulk of the load on both sides of the ball. All five saw varsity action last season, but all of them will be full-time varsity players this season.

“They’re all out here, they’ve grown, they’re stronger,” said Plowman, referring to the quintet. “I’m real excited about this season.”

Plowman said senior Joel Brockman, who pitches, plays right field and first base, is the team’s vocal leader, a role he stepped into last year.

“He has really taken control this year,” Plowman said. “I look for him to give us a lot.”

Brown, Plowman said, should see action at pitcher as well as middle infield, most likely shortstop. He platooned between junior varsity and varsity in 2008, but will be a full-time varsity player this season.

“We worked out a couple of his quirks, he really came on strong with his hitting and fielding,” Plowman said, referring to Brown’s progress late last season. “I look for him to be one of those silent team leaders. He’s not a real outgoing voice, but he’s got all the tools to play the whole game and play it well.”

Sophomore Max Hayes figures to make an impact as well. Hayes stepped into a varsity role midway through the 2008 season, hitting .280.

“Once he moved up and he had his chance, he handled the pressure very well and never looked back from there,” Plowman said. “I think he’s going to pick up right where he left off.”

When the varsity roster is finalized, Plowman said he expects to have about 15 players. Bremerton will carry a junior varsity squad as well.

“I carry as many kids as I can just to make sure we have two teams at the end of the season,” Plowman said, explaining he lost a handful of players midway through the 2008 season due to academic probation and other disciplinary reasons.

“This year’s group of kids I’d like to say are a lot better as far as being students, student-athletes,” Plowman said. “I don’t foresee having that kind of problem this year ... I think the majority of the kids we have out are good students, as well as good kids.”

With the departure of Olson, Plowman said, the Knights no longer have a No. 1 pitcher who they can rely on on a daily basis, meaning those who do pitch need to stay healthy and throw with accuracy consistently.

“If they can do that, I think we should be pretty competitive,” Plowman said.

But while being competitive is one thing, winning games is another. Plowman hopes the team does the latter at least half the time.

“Success for us this year, as a growing team, would be maybe .500 (winning percentage),” Plowman said. “Definitely my goal is to win more than we won last year. If we could play .500 ball, I’d say we made steps by leaps and bounds.”

To put the team in a position to win, Plowman said he is working to free up additional batting cages and field space so his players receive extra repetition.

“We’re working hard as a coaching staff to get them more swings,” Plowman said. “We believe 100 more swings a day results in winning some of those close games.”

The team also is raising money for new equipment — bats and batting helmets, particularly — by planning a comedy night at the Cloverleaf Bar and Grill, Plowman said, and other fundraising options are being discussed.

“We’re working real hard at getting quality bats in their hands,” Plowman said. “We’re going out to the community and asking for donations.”

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