By AARON MANAGHAN
When a coach has been around as long as Central Kitsap fastpitch coach Bruce Welling has, there’s not much they haven’t seen.
Such is the case for Welling as he begins his 17th season at the helm for CK with a team that graduated several standouts. While Central Kitsap will be young (the Cougars started four sophomores and a freshman against Klahowya Wednesday), Welling is more than prepared for the challenge.
“The biggest thing is to realize they can play consistently at this level,” Welling said. “Once they figure that out, they’ll be fine.”
With just two seniors in Lauren Weaber and Brittany Millermon, CK will look to fellow returners like Carolyn Cross, Erin Curtis, Kantie Hanten, Brittany Woolford and Julie Fergus to help bring the team along.
“It doesn’t really matter as long as everyone shows up,” Welling said of having few seniors. “Everyone respects each other.”
So far, it’s Cross, affectionately referred to as “KK,” and Hanten that are leading the charge.
“‘KK’ is throwing the ball and hitting very well,” Welling said. “Katie is hitting well too.”
But they’re not alone.
“And some of the younger players are hitting well too,” he said.
That showed in the Cougars’ 13-3 win against Klahowya and CK grad Holly Carver, in her first year as Eagles coach, Wednesday.
In that win, Hanten went 2-3 with a homer and four RBI, while younger players like Naomi Stocks (2-2, RBI, 2B), Jamee Turner (1-2, 2 RBI) and Whitney Samora (1-3, RBI) all made key contributions as well.
He said efforts in the early going like Wednesday’s should quickly dispel any doubts about how competitive his young team can be.
“They’re young but they’re experienced,” Welling said. “They’re gonna bring enthusiasm and definitely ability.”
Welling expects his team will be right in the thick of Narrows League competition again this season.
“Stadium is going to be very, very tough,” he said. “Wilson will be tough. I think we’ll do alright.”
Especially if the team keeps progressing and integrating into CK’s system as it has so far.
“To get them to do things that we’ve been successful doing before,” Welling said. “And slowly but surely they’re doing that.”
CK hosts Puyallup at 11 a.m. today.