POULSBO — If the sneak previews are any indication, this year’s North Kitsap High School fastpitch team could be a blockbuster.
But head coach Dan Kolda is cautioning fans and players that the real film has yet to start rolling.
Kolda watched his Vikings destroy two tough teams this weekend, as they battered Renton’s Lindbergh Eagles 11-0, then bested the Puyallup Vikings 10-3 in a preseason jamboree. The Vikings’ pitching, composed of gritty veterans Shana McLaughlin and Angela Kramer and fireball-flinging sophomore Heather Case, pitched solid in their first test of the season; and the team’s batting came to play as well, as a lineup studded both with veterans and sophomore talent scored more than 10 run in each of the Vikings’ two games.
“It went better than I could have dreamed,” Kolda said. “Our offense just exploded, and our pitching did a fine job for this early in the season.”
As excited as he is about the season, Kolda knows there is a long, twisty road ahead.
“The challenge now is keeping our feet on the ground,” Kolda said. He added that the two preseason wins are encouraging, but the Narrows League is a difficult one, and the teams that lay over the water are still something of a mystery.
He thinks this team has the talent to contend in that league.
While last year’s Vikings fell just short of the postseason, this year has several additions for the better for NK.
Veteran youth baseball coach Bob Case joins Kolda and Clay Blackwood on staff, an addition no one should underestimate, Kolda said: “Bob’s been a huge addition to the coaching staff, and we saw the results Saturday,” he said.
The team will also benefit from a significant amount of sophomore talent, including Heather Case, who is an essential third pitcher on the staff, and fellow sophomores Lisa Gilbert, Jamie Heins, Katie Johnson, and Brenda Stice.
Seven seniors graduated from last year’s squad, but plenty of veteran talent remains. McLaughlin and Kramer will take the mound for North Kitsap, and the lineup will include plenty of veterans as well, including senior outfielder Melissa Allen, Shannon Crabtree and Ashley Ellingsen, Kristina Jones, third-base stalwart Rachel Skinner, and hot-hitting outfielder Ashley Stice.
McLaughlin liked what she saw last Saturday.
“Our pitching was strong,” she said. “Dan’s been working with the pitchers, and it’s starting to show. Our hitting’s going to be very good, and we’ve meshed very well.”
Kolda, in his second year as head coach for the Vikings, said this team’s identity is starting to emerge.
“Last year we were defense-oriented,” he said. “We lost seven seniors, and even though we’re still going to be good defensively, we’ll have more of an offensive attack … we’re going to be tough on the mound and at the plate.”
Results from the Vikings’ regular-season opening game, against Bainbridge Island March 12, were unavailable at press time.