At a time when Kitsap County athletic fields should be beehives of activity, all is silent as the coronavirus crisis has shut down sporting activity for the foreseeable future.
By March 17, the North Kitsap High School baseball team would have been several games deep into the season. After opening with the first regular season game on Central Kitsap’s new field, they would have headed off to Shorewood for a jamboree. Then, they’d be preparing for games against Olympic and Bremerton with a tournament at Ridgefield sandwiched in the middle.
It’s the type of schedule a team looking to make a run at the state tournament would put together. But instead of the biggest worry being potential rain outs, teams and coaches are wondering if they will play at all this spring.
“It’s been pretty disappointing to be honest with you,” said North Kitsap head coach Jeff Weible. “Especially with the team we had this year.”
Weible feels worst for his strong senior class, which includes several key returners — infielder Chris Schuchart, catcher/pitcher Tucker Gowin, infield/pitcher Logan Chmielewski, outfielder Josh Fisher, infielder Andrew Jones.
“I’m mostly disappointed for the seniors in terms of the work they put in over the winter,” Weible said, “only to have something totally out of their control derail that.”
Likewise, South Kitsap was supposed to get going this week with a tough game against O’Dea at Bannerwood Park in Bellevue. That was one of the first games the Wolves had postponed as King County bears the brunt of the crisis.
“He was one of the first calls I got last week when it started coming up,” said South Kitsap head coach Marcus Logue. “He had let me know they were going to be closing school that last Wednesday.”
Led by a pair of ace pitchers in seniors Tim Reidy and P.J. Moritz, South Kitsap figured to have one of the better pitching staffs around and was a good bet to reach the 4A state tournament — though it should be noted the postseason has yet to be officially cancelled.
“I feel horrible for our seniors, our guys that have put in a lot of hard work,” Logue said. “Hopefully this is a life lesson. We’re teaching them there are things bigger than sports, bigger than baseball.”
The West Sound also has several first-year coaches who will see their careers at their new schools delayed. Among them are Bob Lawrence and Preston Greer, who were set to take over the South Kitsap fastpitch and boys soccer teams; Clay Blackwood was set to take over North Kitsap fastpitch; at Central Kitsap, Justin Brien took the reins of the baseball team, replacing longtime coach Bill Baxter, and Neal Gaulden will head the track team; and Chuck Stark was tabbed as the head coach for Olympic’s fastpitch team.
Stark, a retired sportswriter who spent decades at the Kitsap Sun, began coaching several years ago at Olympic College and filled in for one season at Edmonds Community College.
This is Stark’s first high school job and he was just getting into the swing of things with his new team when the news came down that schools would be closed for six weeks. He was working with a young, promising team anchored by Division I hitter Molly Gates, who batted well over .700 last season for the Trojans.
“It was hard to hear that news,” Stark said. “I was sort of expecting something, but I didn’t realize it would be such a crisis where the whole country would be shutting down.”
The WIAA has yet to rule out holding the spring state championships, but with school out through April 24, there would likely have to be some kind of quick league tournament to get teams into districts in time for state. But with five weeks left to go, so many things can still change.
It’s suspended animation, both on the field and off.