Sports

Spring sports preview: Fastpitch

SPSL FASTPITCH AT A GLANCE

• FAVORITE: Kentlake

• CONTENDERS: Kentwood, Kentridge, Jefferson

• SLEEPER: Tahoma

• NOTABLE: Jefferson remains dangerous with first-teamers Stephanie Ogle (first base), Jayme Carbon (third base), Erin Fujita (outfield) and second-teamer Shawntay Thong (catcher) back in the mix. Carbon hit .532 with 12 doubles, four home runs, 41 RBIs and 28 runs. Fujita finished with a .491 average, 11 doubles, 20 RBIs and 29 runs and Ogle hit .454 with 11 doubles, two home runs and 32 RBIs. Thong tallied six home runs, 36 RBIs and 25 runs for the Raiders, who qualified for the state tournament. “As long as we play together and come out every day and work hard, it’s going to be very difficult to beat us,” said coach Chad Fahnlander. “We return many players from a state team last year and they really want to prove that last year was not a fluke and that we are really a talented team.” ... Decatur returns one of the better players in the league in senior centerfielder Lindsey Bright. Bright was first-team, All-SPSL North last season and has already signed to play in the fall at Fordham University. Also returning for the Gators are senior shortstop Kendal Nakashima, who was a second-teamer last year. ... Jason Wisor is taking over coaching duties at Kentwood for Mike Landry. Wisor has a good group to work with led by pitcher Kirsten Shreve, a first-team all-league selection a year ago, and second-teamer Brianna Standlee. ... Kentridge is in a similar boat as Kentwood. Julie Taylor takes over for Mark Marshall, who was the North Division’s Coach of the Year last season. Marshall spent five years at the helm of the Kentridge program and led the Chargers to the school’s only state championship (2002). And, like Wisor, Taylor has plenty to work with as the Chargers return all-leaguers Savannah Bommarito (pitcher), Lauren Suguro (second base) and Kelli Suguro (shortstop). ... Kentlake’s Felecia Harris, the North Division’s Player of the Year last season, had shoulder surgery in October and won’t be able to log as many innings in the circle. Regardless, Harris, who holds the school record in home runs (12) will still be able to hit and should anchor the league’s top offense. Kentlake also has first-teamers Brianne Bilbrey (outfield) and Lauren Nielsen (shortstop) back in fold and, once again, should score plenty of runs. ... Tahoma graduated much of its top talent, but returns catcher Robin James (.405, 5 home runs) and shortstop Tori Dudley (.396 batting average) and should once again be a factor. ... Despite going 0-14 in league a year ago, Kent-Meridian should take a small step forward thanks to the return of third baseman Leigh Barry, shortstop Rhona Seng and catcher Kim Drake.

OUTLOOK: The road to the league title always runs through Kentlake and this year is no different. While Harris, Kentlake’s UW-bound pitcher, won’t be able to throw nearly as many innings this year, the Falcons have a pitcher in Caitlyn Duggan who is more than capable. Shreve should help Kentwood make things interesting. And Thomas Jefferson can’t be overlooked. If Jefferson pitcher Jessica Dickson turns into an ace, the Raiders have enough offense to challenge Kentlake and Kentwood for the top two spots. Meanwhile, Kentridge returns a slew of all-league selections and can never be overlooked.

CIRCLE ON THE CALENDAR

Kentlake at Jefferson, Tuesday, March 25: The regular-season opener for both teams will be a nice early test. These two teams possess the North’s best offenses, so plenty of fireworks will be provided.

Kentridge at Kentwood, Tuesday, April 8: Midseason showdown between two teams expected to contend. Should be pivotal in the long run.

Federal Way at Tahoma, Tuesday, April 22: This is a game the Bears need to have if they anticipate qualifying for the postseason.

Kentwood at Jefferson, Tuesday, April 22: With three games remaining on the regular-season schedule after this one, this matchup should go a long way in deciding playoff seeding.

Kentridge at Kentlake, Thursday, May 1: Harris should be close to 100 percent for this one. If that’s the case, the Falcons could be wrapping up the North Division title.

FIVE TO WATCH

NAME/SCHOOL/POSITION/YEAR

Felecia Harris, Kentlake, 1b/pitcher, Senior

Note: The North’s top-returning player tied for the league lead in homers a year ago (3) and led division in OBP (.692).

Lauren Nielsen, Kentlake, shortstop, senior

Note: Drove in a single-season school-record 39 runs last year while ranking second in the North in batting average (.558).

Kirsten Shreve, Kentwood, pitcher, senior

Note: Ranked second in the North in strikeouts (75) while posting a 0.96 ERA in 51 innings of work.

Lauren Seguru, Kentridge, second base, senior

Note: First-team all-leaguer batted .500 last year and was among the league leaders in RBIs (14) and runs scored (16).

Stephanie Ogle, Jefferson, first base, senior

Note: One of Jefferson’s many top-notch hitters, batted .463 last season with 19 RBIs and 13 runs scored.

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