POULSBO — Clay Blackwood, who graduated from North Kitsap High School in 1990 and has been an assistant coach with the fastpitch team for the last eight years, has taken a job as assistant coach with the Olympic College fastpitch softball team.
Blackwood will continue to be the head coach of the NKHS volleyball team.
“I’m sad to be leaving the high school (as assistant coach) because I’ve been there for so long. It’s my alma matter,” said Blackwood. “But this will be an exciting challenge.”
Olympic College finished fourth in the NWAAC’s Northern Division last year, going 25-19 overall and 21-11 in league. They finished behind Highline, Edmonds and Green River Community College.
The team includes former Viking Anna Bagala, who set a Ranger record by scoring 39 runs last season and holds or shares several other Ranger records. Ashley Ellingsen, who graduated last summer from North Kitsap, will probably play for the Rangers next season as well.
Blackwood has worked several practices with friend and head coach Brian Sterge, and he expects this year’s team to be competitive too.
“This team, from what I’ve seen, is pretty experienced, and they work well together,” said Blackwood.
That word, “experience,” is a key one for Blackwood, who is looking forward to working with more seasoned athletes. That’ll be a big difference between the high school, where he sometimes worked with players who had little or no experience with fastpitch softball, and college, where the players are veterans of high school teams, club teams, and a few years of college.
“They’re not players who have never played the game,” said Blackwood. “They’re experienced players. And they’re a little more mature.”
Earlier this year, Blackwood heard that OC’s previous coach had accepted another job and called Sterge, then an assistant coach, to find out if it was true.
It was — and Sterge had been elevated to head coach.
Blackwood decided it was time to tackle a new challenge.
“It was an opportunity to work with some advanced players and look at a different level of competition — to see if I’m interested in working at a higher level.” He said. “I’ve enjoyed my time at the high school, but I was looking for another new challenge.”
The Rangers will begin play in mid-March with a preseason tournament.