Pitching and defense.
Those are traditional hallmarks of successful baseball teams — and South Kitsap is no different.
Both have played a large role in the Wolves’ successes — and failures — during the last two seasons under Marcus Logue. And this season might not be much different as the offensive composition is much different from the ones that helped South reach the Class 4A state championship game in 2013-14.
“I told our guys in our meetings and throughout practice that we can’t really think about last year,” Logue said. “We’re a totally different team.”
Everywhere except for the mound, that is.
That is where senior Mac McCarty, who signed with Washington State University, returns. The right-handed McCarty, who pitches from three arm angles in an effort to keep hitters off balance, had a 8-0 record and a 0.15 ERA during the regular season. He struck out 68 hitters and allowed just 21 hits in 48 innings. That earned him Class 4A Narrows League Pitcher of the Year honors.
South also graduated right-handed starter Logan Knowles, who now is an infielder at the U.S. Naval Academy, but senior Cooper Canton returns. Canton and McCarty both started in the team’s pair of wins in May at the 4A West Central/Southwest Bi-District Tournament. While McCarty and Canton project to serve as the school’s primary starters, Logue has an “array” of pitchers that also could factor into the staff. They include junior southpaws Kyle Erickson and Lucas Knowles.
“I think pitching is going to be a strong point of ours,” McCarty said. “There’s Cooper and I, but I think Kyle Erickson is getting overlooked. I’m really excited for him.”
The lineup, which averaged close to 5 1/2 runs per game in 4A Narrows play as the Wolves went undefeated in league for the first time since 2000, underwent an overhaul as all three hitters in the middle of the batting order — Tyler Pinkerton, Tyler Ludlow and Logan Paulson — graduated. Paulson (Treasure Valley in Oregon) and Pinkerton (Everett) both are playing at community colleges, while Ludlow is at the University of Jamestown in North Dakota.
But Logue, who guided South to a 22-6 record last year, does not believe those departures mean the offense is doomed to struggle. Instead, he feels the unit will have to evolve.
“You lose an element of power, but I think we’re just a different offensive team,” Logue said. “We’re going to rely more on hitting for average.”
McCarty, who could play a variety of positions when he is not on the mound, said this year’s team reminds him of the 2013 squad. That team had to replace some significant starters, including twins Alex and Vince Sablan, but managed to finish with a 21-6 record.
“I think we’re going to have a few guys step up,” said McCarty, who mentioned a pair of infielders, senior Drew Dickey and freshman Drew Worden. “It will be a big team effort.”
He said the team also is not focused on replacing some of the key contributors to their success the last two seasons.
“I don’t feel like there’s much pressure,” McCarty said. “We’re another new group.”
That much was clear when Logue said freshman Alex Garcia will be the team’s starting catcher. And ninth-grader Dustin Garcia, who has committed to the University of Washington, is the center fielder.
But Logue wants to use the nonleague portion of the schedule — the Wolves are scheduled to play six games before they host 4A Narrows rival Gig Harbor on March 25 — to sort out several other positions. In particular, the infield is crowded as junior Hunter Riley, who plays second and third base and shortstop, factors into the lineup along with Canton and McCarty. Several others players, including Worden, seniors Dickey and Will Gatlin, juniors Austin Bayne, Erickson, Austin Hackman, Knowles and Daniel Tomkiewicz, also are vying for playing time in the infield. Logue said that means versatility will be important as he will need some infielders to shift to the outfield in order find the best lineup and defensive arrangement.
The latter has not been an issue for South, which has played solid defense under Logue — until the state-title game. In an 8-5 loss in 2013 against Skyview, nine errors derailed the Wolves’ aspirations for their fourth state championship in program history. Last year, South committed three errors in a 7-1 loss against Puyallup.
“In the big games, we’ve struggled a bit,” Logue said. “I’ll take responsibility for that.”
He said the coaches have made some adjustments to counteract that — and the players have been receptive.
“If we make a mistake, we really slow down practice,” he said. “We talk about it. It’s a very baseball-thinking type of team. They want to know the game and understand why things are happening. That’s a positive.”