Naselle prepares for spring sports

<I>DAMIAN MULINIX file photo</I><BR>Returning Naselle junior Erin Saari makes a high jump attempt at last year's district track meet. Saari went to the state meet last year for pole vault and as a member of the girls 4x400 relay team.

NASELLE - With the high school basketball season over for Naselle High School athletes, the turnouts for spring sports began in earnest. Baseball, softball and track took center stage, and just like clockwork, the weather turned a little nastier. It couldn't be spring sports season if it wasn't raining and blowing. Right?

BASEBALLHead Coach Pete Donlon and assistant Randy Lindstrom have a problem which they haven't had in previous years - more prospective players than they have uniforms. The Comets early turnout numbers show as many as 27 prospective candidates where the turnout in past years has often been barely enough to field a team, including a reserve or two.

Donlon said, "We have a higher number of kids turning out as the Babe Ruth and Little League programs are starting to make a difference on the number of kids wanting to play."

The Comets have 12 letter winners returning including five seniors, four juniors, and three sophomores. The players and their prospective positions include: Seniors - Colby Engelson (IF, DH), Caleb Hazen (P, OF), Randy Johnson (P, C, OF), Aoy Marion (P, OF), Doug Wise (P, IF); Juniors - Matt Blain (P, C, IF), Matt Chavez (P, IF), Garrick Bennett, and Casey Heagy; Sophomores - Jason Gradt (P, C, IF), Logan Hazen and Kevin Maki.

Non-lettermen returnees include: Seniors - Mike Gilbert and Robert Torppa. New to the NHS baseball program this year are: Juniors - Keifer Bell, Brad Erickson; Sophomores - Cody Gilbert, Sean Mobley; and Freshmen - Killian Echols, Nick Hines, Gary Olmstead, Marcus Sanchez, Nathan Sultemeier and Tyler Smith.

Donlon said, "The league looks to be stronger this year with Oakville and Northwest Christian probably the favorites as they have several of their last year's starters returning. Lake Quinault and Tahola are going to combine their teams as one team.

"We were very young last year and we now have a little more experience in our lineup. We lost five seniors from last year, but only one, catcher Richard Smith, was a key starter so filling his spot will be important. We are scheduled to start our season on March 11 with a scrimmage at Ilwaco."

The Comets open their season this Saturday, March 11, when they travel to Long Beach's Culbertson Park for a game with Ilwaco. They travel to Oakville on Monday, March 13, and are scheduled for back-to-back home games, against Wishkah on Thursday, March 16, and Wahkiakum on Friday, March 17.

FASTPITCH SOFTBALLFastpitch softball coach Chris Clark said, "I have 19 girls out today. We are looking at another good season as we have more pitching this year than in years past. We have five seniors, six juniors, five sophomores and two freshman.

"Brittanie Vaughn is returning and should bring a big bat in her senior year. We are fortunate to have many of the girls that have played in our system for three years now and we are moving forward in our coaching process by developing slap hitters and drag bunting that should become helpful during districts this year if our year goes as planned."

Clark added, "I will provide the names of the girls next week as I make sure that they are staying out."

The Comets open their season at Oakville on Monday, March 13, entertain Wishkah on Thursday, March 16 and Wahkiakum on Friday, March 17. The Comets fast-pitch team has 14 playing dates, many of which will be double headers, before post season play starts.

TRACKThe Naselle track team, coached by Debbie Denny in her 29th year of coaching track and assistant Scott Smith in his fifth year as a track coach, has an initial turnout of 32 athletes - 20 boys and 12 girls. The roster includes: Boys: Seniors - Wryan Anderson, Preston Torrpa, Ricky Johnson; Juniors - Joseph Fletcher, Beau Keightly, Andy Nortrup and Jeremy Ray; Sophmores - James Bauer, Patrick Robinson, Kevin Schei; Freshmen - Alex Bennet. Stephan Griss, Chris Houston, Tylor Nortrup, Dustin Parker, Tommy Rose, Gabriel See, Mike Shirley and Conor Smith.

Girls: Seniors - Katherine Herrold, Mayuko Takami; Juniors - Kelsey Fletcher, Jenny Klinger, Sandra Rodriguez, Erin Saari; Sophomores - Elsa Butchart, Narci Carlson, Sylvia Herrold, Haley Landis; Freshmen - Emma Fauver and Risa Fletcher. The track team manager is junior Amanda Wilson and the statisticians are junior Melissa White and freshman Toni Mullins.

Denny said, "We have a fairly large group of returning athletes among our team members. Seven of our athletes have one year of track experience and seven other athletes have two years of experience. Six of our athletes, all girls, have state meet experience, mostly from last season, but one athlete has state meet experience from two prior years."

The Comets open their season with a home meet on Thursday, March 16. Naselle has a schedule that includes 11 meets before entering post season competition.

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