Tacoma high school baseball squads are once again hard at work on the diamond with the season fast approaching. With games beginning next week, Tacoma Weekly caught up with local coaches to get an early look at how their rosters look heading into the season.
The Tigers are loaded with experience, returning the majority of a team that made it to the district playoffs last year. Senior outfielder Austen Brand, third baseman Tyler Stumph, shortstop Patrick Minzel, outfielder Adam Lensegrav and pitcher Chris Bower return to provide leadership.
Sophomore first baseman/pitcher Jacob Vieth returns and adds power with the bat and flame-throwing ability from the mound. Fellow sophomores second baseman Brannon Ronia, catcher Matt Gunn and outfielder Michael Van Orden are developing and also will make a significant impact.
"This should be our strongest defense," said head coach Chuck Peterson. "Like anything, (the key) is hitting the ball. Don't go for homeruns, go for singles and we should be fine."
Junior pitcher Ryder Destunder also will be key on the mound for the Tigers, and utilityman Darian Hunter and first baseman J.J. Moorehead are also multi-talented. Seniors Dillon Rogers and Cash Russell provide the Tigers with quality depth.
The Lions also return a wealth of talent, headlined by senior all-league third baseman Daniel Pollastro, who is a slick defender and handles the bat extremely well. Senior pitcher Roman Mitchell looks to lead Bellarmine on the mound, and senior shortstop Connor Jensen also returns to provide leadership.
Junior pitcher Marcus Fielder also returns to add another quality arm, and junior catcher Michael Ota and outfielder Nathan Heath – who was hurt all last season – also return.
"I think we'll hit it pretty decent," said Lions head coach Rick Barnhart. "We look good defensively, now it's a matter of will it transition to game time."
With 12 overall returning players, Bellarmine looks to bounce back from a disappointing season in 2011 that saw several key injuries.
The Thunderbirds will rely on the leadership of senior outfielder Jon Devine, a returning two-time all-league honorable mention, and senior catcher Daniel Curran. Pitcher T.J. Donovan also returns, and will most likely step into the closer role.
Sophomore shortstop Kasey Kenyon is a talented, young returning starter, and sophomore second baseman/pitcher Garrett Granvold will be counted on as the ace of the staff. Sophomore third baseman/pitcher Kyle Couture will be another key starter, and freshman first baseman Kacey Hanipale will be an important piece as well.
"We're going to be scrappy and competitive. We don't have a lot of depth," said second-year head coach Victor Rodriguez. "We're going to be able to pitch and play defense."
The Rams suffered several key losses to graduation, but still return a solid senior class. First baseman/pitcher Dylan Sandoval will be a key leader for Wilson on the mound and with the bat, and seniors Chase Olsen and Casey Olsen help solidify the infield. Senior outfielder/pitcher Spencer Ready is a left-hander with a strong arm and bat.
Junior Nate Sandoval will step in to man the catcher position, and sophomore infielder/pitchers Jared Horner and Brady O'Keefe will look to step up and take a bigger role.
"I think we've got a lot of guys who can pitch," said new Wilson head coach Doug Rupe. "We're going to make a lot of plays in the infield and we've got a lot of young talent."
Head coach Roy Young expects a trio of seniors to shoulder the load for the Falcons this year.
Second team all-league pick Jayse Guild returns to lead the Falcons on the mound and in the infield, and infielder/pitcher J.J. Fullmer is a dual threat as well. Senior catcher Billy Barker brings a powerful bat and will look to do some serious damage offensively.
"I'm looking for that group to lead the younger kids and set some good examples," Young said.
Junior shortstop Noah Hunthausen also returns to add some punch and run-scoring ability to the top of the lineup.
The Falcons look to advance to the district playoffs this year after making it into the Narrows Tournament last season.
New Abes head coach Ron Gee is looking to build Lincoln's program with a few returning starters and several young, talented athletes.
Senior pitcher/utility man Scott Swiberg looks to lead the team, while junior pitcher/shortstop Austin Pizarro also returns to provide experience. Junior third baseman/pitcher Everett Davis should step in and contribute, and sophomore infielder/outfielder Ike Castro and sophomore catcher/pitcher Kiivan Lee will be important factors as well.
"My goal is that we teach them how to play right, be good people and be competitive," Gee said. "We need work in all areas. It's starting from the bottom and working up."
The Crusaders return a good core of last year's team, including junior first baseman/pitcher Dalton Wintersole, who hits for both average and power. Senior outfielder/pitcher Kody Lyons and senior pitcher/first baseman Robert Brazile also provide quality leadership, and junior shortstop/pitcher Matt Hallstrom will be productive as well.
Junior catcher Seth Hurdle also returns, and sophomore second baseman Tommie Brazile brings a solid glove and is a good contact hitter.
"We work really hard, they seem to be a really focused group," said head coach Kraig Gillman, whose team lost a heartbreaker in the playoffs last season. "The kids have mentioned that as a motivating factor this year, and are wanting to take it to the next step."
The Eagles will be led by their four-man senior class, headlined by catcher/pitcher Dylan Huber, the team captain. Senior outfielders Brett Tomczak and David Lind should be productive, and senior Nolan Walter looks to provide leadership in the infield.
"All of those guys are going to be good team leaders," said first-year Life Christian head coach Gregg Leach.
The Eagles will be aiming for a spot in the district playoffs in a tough 1A Nisqually League that features defending state champion Chimacum.
"Their attitudes are outstanding," Leach said of his team. "I think we'll be okay at every position…
I think it's going to come down to playing with confidence and having early success – trying to get them to believe in themselves."