Sports

Decatur hopes to get back into the postseason

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

The Decatur fastpitch team had a tough end to their 2004 season. After rolling to a 13-5 record and tying for the South Puget Sound League South Division regular season title, the Gators failed to advance from the SPSL Tournament.

Decatur was knocked out by fifth-place Jefferson.

But the Gators do return a bulk of that team, including the league’s Most Valuable Pitcher, Rachael Painter.

“This is an exciting team that has excellent team chemistry and a lot of athletic ability,” said co-coach Mike Painter, Rachael’s father. “Some coaches in the SPSL thought we overachieved last year. More of the same could be forthcoming in 2005.”

Rachael Painter finished the SPSL South season with a miniscule 0.79 earned-run average and 165 strikeouts in 124 innings. Painter also finished with a .327 batting average with 10 runs and a team-leading 10 RBIs.

“This is a very young team whose success will be predicated on (Rachael Painter),” coach Painter said. “If she has a repeat performance from 2004 and if all the potential pieces of the team come together, this team will compete for the league championship and a possible state berth.”

Helping Painter will be returners Carly Colbath, Kelsey Lusebrink and Morgan Bright. Colbath hit .245 with nine runs a season ago, but provided the Gators solid defense behind the plate.

Curtis, Rogers, Jefferson and Bethel, along with Decatur, should be the top teams in the South. The Gators will play Stadium at Celebration Park tomorrow and open their SPSL season Tuesday at home against Federal Way.

Jefferson

Second-year coach Chad Fahnlander hopes to build on the late-season momentum that carried the Thomas Jefferson fastpitch team into the postseason last year.

With just two weeks left in the 2004 regular season, the talented Raiders were out of the SPSL South playoff hunt. But TJ battled back to win four of their last five games to earn the final berth from the SPSL South.

At the SPSL Tournament, the Raiders got a little revenge on one of their biggest rivals. Jefferson downed Decatur, 6-1, in a loser-out, winner-to-district game. The West Central/Southwest District Tournament wasn’t as nice for TJ, who dropped their first two games.

The Raiders will return a lot of players with speed and solid defense from last year’s team that finished 12-14 overall.

Returners include infielders Brittany Creek (.333, 12 runs last season), Kristi Sigafoos and Lisa Clark, outfielder Alyssa Haywood (led Raiders with 11 RBIs and 12 runs), pitcher Jill Halvorsen and utility players Michelle Mohn and Liz Phillips. Fahnlander will also be counting on newcomers Brittany Still, Sarah Byrne, Stephanie Olge, Shawntay Thong and Amy Pate.

“We need good pitching and timely hitting,” Fahnlander said.

The Raiders open their SPSL South regular season on Tuesday at Curtis.

Federal Way

The Eagles should be much improved from last year, when Federal Way posted a 7-13 record in the South Puget Sound League South Division. Third-year Eagle coach Joe Haworth returns a lot of key players at key positions, including both corner infield spots as well as junior pitcher Jennifer Ishikawa.

“To be successful, we will need to have outstanding pitching and defense,” Haworth said. “We will not score a lot of runs. We will need to execute all routine plays and don’t give up the extra outs.”

Haworth will be counting on senior third baseman Leslie Davis and senior first baseman Morgan Swanberg to provide that solid defense. The Eagles also return junior outfielder Kirsten Stamnes to their starting lineup. But the biggest comeback should come from shortstop Rachael Christensen. The senior missed last year with season-ending knee surgery.

Newcomers Sarah Brewer and Cassie Sahagun should start in Federal Way’s outfield and freshman catcher Brittany Racus will occupy one of the toughest positions on a fastpitch team.

The Eagles open their SPSL South regular season Tuesday on the road against the Decatur Gators.

Beamer

The Todd Beamer Titans struggled to a 1-19 overall record in their inaugural season in the South Puget Sound League South Division last year. But the good news is, Beamer returns all their key players who got plenty of experience in the rugged SPSL.

“This year should see growth in the team and it should equal some more (wins),” second-year coach Stu Prince said.

Leading the list of returners is junior Jade Clare. Last year, the shortstop was named second-team All-SPSL South. Other returners include third baseman/pitcher Brianna Bocchi, shortstop Kimmy Huteson and outfielder/third baseman Kelli Calvin. Newcomers Kelsi Messling, Jordan Salisbury and Nicole Peterson will also provide depth and talent.

“This year’s team will need to learn to be successful when they are in a position to win,” Prince said. “With more depth and talent we should be in more games and have additional chances to win. The team has some talent, but is still young. We will go as far as out pitching carries us.”

The Titans open their SPSL South season Tuesday at home against Rogers.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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