Andrew Fry.

Andrew Fry.

Spring prep preview, part 1 / Tennis, baseball, softball, soccer

South Whidbey High School spring sports teams are about to start competition for the 2020 season. Here is a quick look at what to expect from the tennis, baseball, softball and soccer teams. The other squads will be featured in Saturday’s South Whidbey Record.

Tennis

Seven returning letter winners, including two all-league, first-team selections, return to guide the South Whidbey High School tennis team this spring.

The Falcons tied for first in the North Sound Conference in 2019 with a 7-1 record and were 7-4 overall.

Among the returnees are seniors Ashley Ricketts, who was first team in singles last spring, and Alison Papritz, who paired with then senior Mary Zisette to earn all-league honors in doubles.

Seniors McKenna Kelley, Annika LeWarne, Chloe Loehr, Jenna Pfeiffer and Oliana Strange are also back.

It’s too early to predict key newcomers, coach Karyle Kramer said, but the underclassmen have been “impressive” in the first few practices.

“Team unity and belief in the program, teammates and self,” are team strengths, according to Kramer. “Players know they are a part of something more than just tennis.

“We have strong numbers, about 10 at each grade level. It looks to be a good season.”

Kramer’s concerns include lack of access to indoor courts during the winter, which means her players have been inactive for the past few months, and the loss of leadership from the graduation of last year’s seniors.

“Our expectations and goals are nearly always the same: develop a better tennis game, fuel passion for a life-long sport and exhibit the best sportsmanship and personal accountability possible,” Kramer said. “Our expectation is that each student will work on the life skills she needs to address; contribute to her team, school and community; and learn and grow from the season.”

The Falcons start the season at home at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 25, with Oak Harbor.

Baseball

Losing only two starters from a team that posted an impressive 18-5 record last spring, the South Whidbey High School baseball club heads into the 2020 season with the chance to be one of the area’s best.

The Falcons also went 12-3 in North Sound Conference play last year, good for second place.

One of the Falcons’ strengths this season will be “great pitching,” according to coach Tom Fallon.

Leading the mound staff is senior Ethan Petty, a two-time, all-league, first-team selection and the reigning North Sound Conference Pitcher of the Year. Last spring Petty was part of three combined no-hitters.

He will be backed on the mound by junior Brent Batchelor, a two-time, second-team all-conference pitcher and one of South Whidbey’s top hitters.

Three other talented seniors return, including two-time, all-league first-team outfielder Alex Black and Drew Fry, who was first-team, all-league at third base last season after being honorable mention as a sophomore.

Dexter Jokinen, a three-year starter at catcher, rounds out the class.

Sophomore Nick Black, a second-team, all-league outfielder in 2019, and junior Luke Rookstool, honorable mention in 2018, complete the list of returning starters.

Junior Ben Lind and sophomore Ashton Leland also lettered last year.

As well as pitching, defense should be one of the Falcons’ strong suits, according to Fallon.

“I believe we will be improved offensively as well,” he added.

Fallon is concerned with his team’s youth and depth.

The nine letter winners are the only returning players from last year’s team.

Ten newcomers joined the squad this spring, and Fallon expects freshmen Josh Sterba and Andrew Hilton to contribute early.

With 19 players, South Whidbey will be able to do something it couldn’t last spring — field a junior varsity team.

“Team goals are competing for the league title and getting through district for a state appearance,” Fallon said. “I believe our senior leadership and team-first commitment will carry this squad to a very successful season.”

South Whidbey opens the season at the Ellensburg Jamboree at noon Saturday, March 14.

The first two games are on the road. The Falcons play at 4 p.m. Wednesday, March 18, at Kingston (1-17 last year) and at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 21, at Chimacum (8-11).

The first home game is also the league opener when Granite Falls (2-13) comes to Langley at 4 p.m. Monday, March 23.

Softball

With seven returning starters and 14 letter winners on the roster, the South Whidbey High School softball team is primed to move up the North Sound Conference standings this spring.

The Falcons were 2-10 in league play (5-15 overall) last season.

South Whidbey is deep in experience, and at the center of the veteran group is three-time, all-league catcher senior Ari Marshall. Also back are the Falcons’ top two pitchers, sophomore Chanel Sterba and junior Melody Wilkie. Sterba was a first-team, all-conference selection in 2019 and Wilkie earned second-team honors.

Coach Brad Jaeger said his two pitchers “could start for any team in the conference.”

Also back is senior shortstop Kayla Knauer, an all-league honorable mention athlete last spring.

Rounding out the group of returning letter winners are seniors Arianna Briggs, Jordyn Kelley, Makenna Morley, Madalyn Moss and Megan Reeves; juniors Shelby Campbell and Kayley Fontenot; and sophomores Alicia Johnson, Julia Maher and Mary Moss.

Jaeger noted that he is still evaluating the talent of his newcomers, but expects freshman Zoey West and Jules Northrup “to make an impact and help our infield.”

“At least half of our starters have the potential to be all-league players,” Jaeger said. “At the end of the year, hopefully our team goal will be achieved because of how hard each girl is working on her individual and team goals.”

The team’s strength is its experience, especially behind the plate and in the circle, according to Jaeger.

Another strength, Jaeger said, is his coaching staff.

“We were able to add three quality assistant coaches,” he said.

Steve West will tutor the infielders and serve as the first-base coach.

Bethany Flister will coach the pitchers, and Karen Jaeger will be the bench coach, keeping the girls involved in the game from the dugout.

“With this added help, we feel we have a chance to make big improvements and ultimately would love to compete for the league title,” Brad Jaeger said.

His biggest concern is defense. Although the Falcons more than doubled their scoring output from 2017, last year’s team still dropped double-digit games because it “gave up too many runs,” Jaeger said. “We will be focusing on continuing to improve our defense.”

The Falcons host Oak Harbor at 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 17.

Soccer

The North Sound Conference defending champion South Whidbey High School soccer team took some heavy losses through graduation, but the cupboard is far from bare for the 2020 Falcons.

In addition to losing six members of a talented senior class, South Whidbey also lost its coach when Emerson Robbins, who led the Falcons for seven seasons, retired last year.

Among the graduates were the league’s offensive player of the year, Michael Lux, and three other all-conference athletes.

The Falcons posted a 13-3 record, 8-0 in league, last year and finished second in the district tournament and fifth at bi-district.

New coach Richard Fuss welcomes back a young but still deep team.

This spring’s club has only two seniors, Andrew Curtis and Joey Lane. Lane was a first-team, all-conference defender in 2019.

Also back are eight other lettermen: juniors Taylor Daniels, Aidan Donnelly, Reilly McVay, Aidan O’Brien and Thomas Simms; and sophomores Sequoia Durham, Erik Haugen and Ryan Morgan.

Simms earned first-team, all-league and Durham second-team honors as defenders last season.

Key newcomers, according to Fuss, are juniors Rowan Dickerson and Matt Dixon; sophomore Luke Marty-McAuliff; and freshmen Emmett Layman and Liam Stuchell.

Among the team’s strengths, according to Fuss, are its work ethic and willingness to face challenges.

“Many of them have played together for years, so they already have an understanding of how to play together,” he added. “The team chemistry and culture is positive. The players are hungry to compete and to take their place in the tradition of strong South Whidbey High School soccer.”

One of Fuss’s concerns is getting the new players up to speed.

“(We are) a young team that will have a steep learning curve at the start of the season,” he said.

Fuss likes the teams “feistiness” and “growing confidence.”

“I expect this team to be every bit as competitive as in previous years,” he said.

The Falcons open the season against Port Townsend (5-4-2 last year) at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 14, at Chimacum High School. The first home match is 6 p.m. Tuesday, March 27, with Lindbergh (4-11-1).

Ari Marshall.

Ari Marshall.

Ashley Ricketts.

Ashley Ricketts.

Joey Lane.

Joey Lane.

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