Editor’s note: After a handful of practices, Sequim High School’s spring sports seasons were cancelled before any officials games were played following statewide shutdown of schools and all extra-curricular activities in April. These previews were written just prior to those seasons were slated to begin. — MD
Spring sports preview: SHS Baseball
Head coach: Dave Ditlefsen (15th year)
2019 record: 14-9 overall, 7-5 in Olympic League (third place); 2-2 at districts
Top returning players: Silas Thomas (sr.), Michael Grubb (jr.), Michael Young (jr.), Connor Bear (so.), Hayden Eaton (jr.), Zach McCracken (so.), Lane Mote (jr.), Austin Newton (jr.), Colten Reed (jr.)
Newcomers: Zach Ballantyne (sr.), Kaiden Brown (jr.), Ryan Porter (jr.), Bodi Sanderson (jr.), Brett Mote (fr.)
Key competition: Port Angeles, North Kitsap, North Mason
Sequim High’s baseball squad had an impressive season in 2019, finishing with a 14-9 overall record that included a 7-5 Olympic League mark good for third in the league. The Wolves came just one win short of making the state championship playoffs last year with a 2-2 mark in districts, falling 5-1 to North Kitsap in a loser-out, winner-to-state game.
SHS head coach Dave Ditlefsen was impressed with that team a year ago, but said that that despite losing ace pitcher Johnnie Young to graduation, the Wolves be in good shape to impress once more in 2020.
“I’m always going to back my players to do well,” Ditlefsen said, “but I really think this is a good group. We’ve got a lot of starters coming back who are good players, and some good depth. I’m excited.”
Shaping up on the mound
Sequim’s starting rotation is headlined by this season’s lone senior, Silas Thomas.
“Silas was very good last year as a junior,” Ditlefsen said, “and I think he’s going to be even better this season.
“Last year we had people asking us ‘Who is this kid? Is he really just a junior?’ Silas really caught a lot of people off guard, and he’s good enough to deserve that surprise.”
Joining Thomas in the rotation is junior Michael Young, also the team’s primary shortstop. While Young is still refining his arsenal on the mound, Ditlefsen sees a lot of potential in the youngster.
“He won a district game for us last year,” Ditlefsen said. “He throws hard and he throws strikes. He’s not going to hurt himself out there.”
Ditlefsen said that the third spot in his rotation is still a little up in the air. Two strong performers from last season, juniors Caleb Pozernick and Brandon Barnett, would be in consideration according to the coach, but neither player is playing baseball this year as they’ve elected to compete in track and field this spring to better prepare them for the football season in the fall.
With them out, sophomore Connor Bear and junior Michael Grubb are under consideration, Ditlefsen said, as well as junior Hayden Eaton, though the Sequim coach said he’d prefer to use his starting center fielder in relief to close games out.
Competition in the field
The absence of Barnett and Pozernick also open up a starting spot at first base, which Ditlefsen said he has several good options for, as well as at Oliver’s now-empty position at third base.
“Those two spots are going to be our main competition,” Ditlefsen said. “Everywhere else, we’re pretty much set.”
Ditlefsen is also looking forward to the development of two of his sophomore players, Bear and catcher Zach McCracken.
“Zach started a lot of games for us as a freshman, and he did really well in that role,” Ditlefsen said. “He’s grown and developed a lot since then, and I’m excited to see what he does next.”
Bear is a player that Ditlefsen sees playing a key utility role for his team: on the mound one day, at second base the next, third base the next game, and perhaps at shortstop after that.
“He can play anywhere I put him. That’s so important to have in your team at this level, with guys coming off the field to go on the mound,” Ditlefsen said.
While not pitching, Thomas holds down an outfield spot and Grubb helps stabilize the infield; both were all-Olympic League second-teamers last spring.
Tough league schedule
The Olympic League is always a tough place to play, with two traditionally excellent teams in the Port Angeles Roughriders and North Kitsap Vikings, and in most seasons with almost any other team able to step up and win games.
This season will be no different, Ditlefsen said.
“Our league is always top-to-bottom very competitive. Everyone’s got a good-looking team this season,” the Wolves’ coach said.
“Olympic and Kingston have (pitchers) we’ve never been able to beat. North Mason’s always solid, Bremerton are never a pushover. You never know what to expect in this league.”
Further complicating things is that Sequim are twice slated to play Port Angeles and North Kitsap in back-to-back games, giving Ditlefsen some tough decisions to make with his starting rotation on those weeks.
“Normally you hope to get them in different weeks,” Ditlefsen said of his team’s two biggest rivals. “Getting them back-to-back is tough.”
The Wolves will also have to deal with a long stretch between March 25-April 22 when they will play just one game at home. However, Sequim plays just one road game in their last six.