Sports

Pirates hang hopes on local lineup

Once rivals, now teammates.

The 2009 version of Peninsula College's softball squad resembles a reunion more than a college roster. Four former Sequim Wolves and six Port Angeles Roughrider grads join three returning out-of-towners who aim to improve the Pirates' 5-31 conference mark and sixth-place finish from last season.

Leading the way is freshman Carly Swingle, who earned three consecutive all-league nominations in each year as a starter at Sequim High.

Swingle, who posted a 1.93 earned-run-average as a senior, has a repertoire featuring a fastball, drop, two change ups and a curve. Backing her on the mound is P.A.'s Brittany Norton and Sequim grad Ashley Lowe-Thaens, both of whom have fastballs and change-ups.

Their battery mate is former Wolf Marquita Espinoza, a strong-armed catcher who has plenty of pop at the plate. Espinoza was a two-time all-league backstop at Sequim but spent the entire 2008 season on the disabled list with a bum thumb.

"It was really hard to watch the team play without me," Espinoza said.

Lowe-Thaens holds the third base job while Molly Fletcher, another former Sequim player, is the starting shortstop; both earned all-league honors as Wolves.

Like Espinoza, Lowe-Thaens and Fletcher have missed significant field time because of injuries. Lowe-Thaens hasn't played much in three years thanks to chronic tendonitis in her wrist while Fletcher's rotator cuff in her throwing shoulder has kept her out for years as well.

When Cheney came calling, though, Fletcher itched to get back on the field.

"Jim just randomly called my house," Fletcher recalled. "It didn't take a lot."

At second is P.A.'s Laura Campbell, a freshman, backed by returning sophomore Samantha Flett, back on the softball diamond now that basketball season is finished.

Campbell is one of a total of seven Roughrider graduates filling out the Peninsula roster.

"We've played a lot with them in travel ball," Lowe-Thaens said.

Sophomore Kelly Henderson, a P.A. grad, is in center. Last season, Henderson finished second to Kayla Ralston in most major offensive categories: batting average (.316), hits (36), doubles (nine), home runs (three) and RBIs (16). She did top the team in runs scored with 22.

Port Angeles freshman Caitlin Curtis starts in left while a trio of players - Tasha Taylor, Melissa Lisk and Bethany Holt - holds down right field.

Peninsula struggled to get wins on the field last season, winning just one on-the-field contest against Edmonds and earning four forfeits against the same Triton ball club.

Cheney figures that will change this year.

"Our biggest thing (to change) is that they didn't have a lot of on-the-field success," he said. "Our goal is to get to the NWAACC championships ... and make a dent there, too. We have the pieces to the puzzle (and) now we need to put it together. These young ladies and the coaching staff are working hard."

Peninsula got its first action of the season with three doubleheaders in Florida March 5-8, all against four-year schools. Despite being able to score runs, the Pirates weren't able to keep up with their opponents' hitting.

"Amazon women," Espinoza called the Pirates' opponents from John A. Logan College.

""We hit the ball exceptional down there," Cheney said, noting eight P.C. hitters finished with batting averages above .300. "Our defense (wasn't good). That's where we need most of our work."

Peninsula opened March 24 at home against Edmonds - results were unavailable for this edition. See sequimgazette.com/sports for details.

The Pirates are back in action March 26 at home against Everett and host Shoreline March 31.

"We'll know (how good the Pirates are) eight games into the season," Cheney said. "They have the ability. It's my responsibility (that) it does produce on the field."



Reach Michael Dashiell at miked@sequimgazette.com.



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