POULSBO — During the offseason, members of North Kitsap Viking baseball played in and picked up Babe Ruth state championships while some even made a trip to the Babe Ruth World Series.
Now, they bring that confidence to the NK diamond.
“They expect to win and they expect to be successful.That’s a big part of the game is just believing,” NK head coach Jeff Weible said. “A lot of them have put in the time and have earned the right to win.”
“The attitude is that we want to win,” said senior catcher Joe Benish. “We’ve got a lot of talent. We’ve got the sophomores and the junior World Series team. And we’ve got the speedster in Andy Smith. This year, it’s going to be a battle for varsity positions from the start.”
Not only will the Vikings fight for their place on the field, once there, each game will also be a test. Joining the Narrows Bay division this year, any slack has been pared from North’s schedule. Almost from the get-go the Vikings will be facing league opponents in each contest.
They start off the season at a non-league jamboree in Shorewood Saturday, followed by a trip to Foss High School in Tacoma March 13. Then the Vikes host Foss March 14.
Much of the 20-game season is set up in that fashion, as North will face most NL teams in a back-to-back doubleheader format. And while the new schedule has intensified and deleted match-ups with smaller schools like former Viking rivals Port Angeles, North looks forward to the challenge.
“(The league) is tougher but we’re actually more excited to have consistent competition,” Benish said.
While most of last year’s strength at the plate is returning, Benish said the Vikings will be minus slugger Jim Smith who hit six home runs last year. He will miss the season due to team rule violations. Weible is hoping the rest of the team will be able to pick up the slack, but that won’t be known until the Vikings take the field.
“Most of the guys we are counting on have probably gotten 10,000 swings in the off-season, but there’s nothing like coming out and hitting against a live pitcher,” Weible said.
Though the team has only been able to practice outside three times since the beginning of spring sports Feb. 28, the Vikings have plenty of pitchers to swing against.
Left-handed junior Jordan Tucker — who pitched on and off last season battling recurring injuries — will take the mound in earnest, Weible said, along with sophomore Tyler Sullivan and junior Jamaal Smith, senior Kelly Wells and a host of other potentials.
“We have a lot of pitchers,” Weible said. “I don’t know that we have any kid that will come out and just dominate a team, although I think a couple of them have that capability.”
And if they play to their potential, the Vikings also feel confident they have the ability to finish in the top realm of their division.
“I think it’ll be a race for the top-three spots,” Benish said. “We’ve just got to take it one game at a time.”