Sports

Decatur, Jefferson set to battle for SPSL South fastpitch title

By CASEY OLSON

Sports editor

It has been a tough off-season for the Decatur fastpitch team, to say the least.

The Gators lost one of their own after a summer traffic accident claimed the life of senior third baseman Breanna Klasen’s mother. Patty Klasen was killed by a drunk driver in Spokane while she and Breanna were attending a fastpitch tournament for Breanna’s summer league team.

“The team is dedicating this season to Patty Klasen,” said coach Pete Waid. “On the back of every warmup jersey, there is PK in her memory.”

The Gators are coming off a very successful season in the SPSL South. Decatur finished 14-8 overall and 12-4 in league, good for second place, before losing two-straight games at the district tournament.

Waid lost only one starting player to graduation off that team and also adds four new sophomores –– Ashley McCarney, Breanna Newport, Rachel Painter and Leanna Pomeroy.

“Any one of them could break into the starting lineup,” Waid said.

Decatur will be led again by the pitching arm of Kelly Claar. Following last season, Claar was named first-team All SPSL after striking out 166 hitters in just 16 games, which led the league.

“Kelly has been in the gym all winter practicing for this year’s season,” said Waid. “Kelly is also hitting the ball really well and will be a strong asset to the program.”

The Gators also return first-teamer Katie Street in the outfield. Street, who has already signed a full-ride scholarship to play golf at Boise State University in the fall, led the Gators in hitting a year ago. Also returning are second-teamers Kaitlin Bailey (first base), Klasen (third base) and Aubrey McCarney (left field). Also back for Waid will be seniors Lauren Morales, Jamee Martello, Michelle Mask, Richelle Davis and junior Samantha Ganacias.

Thomas Jefferson fastpitch

Tara Bacher walked into a pretty good situation when she took over the Thomas Jefferson fastpitch team. The first-year coach of the Raiders inherits a team that finished the 2002 season with a 25-3 record and a fifth-place finish at the state championships.

“We have some really outstanding athletes,” said Bacher, who coached the TJ junior varsity last season.

The Raiders return several players from their SPSL championship team, including Tawnya Guthrie. The senior catcher led the SPSL in hitting a season ago and has already signed a national letter of intent to attend Witchita State University to play in the fall.

“She is just a superstar,” Bacher said. “We are very lucky to have her.”

Also back for the Raiders will be seniors Chelsea Hunt (rightfield, second base), Ashley Osman (pitcher, first base), Kristy Richardson (centerfield) and Jamie Salmon (infield, outfield). Junior Amanda Guererro returns at shortstop.

“We have a real good group of returners,” said Bacher.

The Raiders also have some pretty solid newcomers. The best of them could be pitcher Amanda Herrara. The junior is just returning from a torn anterior cruciate ligament in her knee, which she suffered while throwing a pitch last year. Before the injury, Herrera had struck out 73 batters in just 37 innings on the junior varsity.

Another solid newcomer should be infielder/outfielder Jessica Rakestraw.

“She was a superstar on JV last year,” said Bacher.

Bacher sees the SPSL South championship coming down to a pair of Federal Way schools.

“Decatur was our biggest competition last year,” she said. “They are bringing back a lot of returners. Emerald Ridge and Curtis will also be good. It is really a pretty good league overall.”

Federal Way fastpitch

First-year coach Joe Haworth is optimistic about his Federal Way fastpitch team’s chances in the South Puget Sound League South this season.

The Eagles finished up the 2002 season with just two wins, but return several players, including pitcher Tiffany Jones.

“Our strengths this year are going to be pitching and defense,” said Haworth. “Our weakness is power hitting.”

Also back for the Eagles will be first baseman Monique Hildebrandt, shortstop Erika Kuchiak, third baseman Becky Chapin and centerfielder Jody Spillner.

Key newcomers for Federal Way will be Leslie Davis (pitcher, shortstop), Angela Westmoreland (outfield) and Noelle Jalecorsa (catcher).

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