The Gig Harbor Tides have been close. For two straight years, the school’s baseball team has been one game away from the Class 4A state tournament.
After they won four loser-out games in a row during West Central District tournaments, the Tides lost a 2-1 heartbreaker to Auburn in 10 innings last season.
Head coach Pete Jansen, who is entering his 25h year, said offense was the team’s downfall.
“We had a good group of kids,” Jansen said. “If we could’ve gotten some more timely hits in certain situations, we might have had a few of those losses turn into wins. But it was a good year.”
The Tides, who finished in the middle of the pack in the Narrows League last season, believe they have the pieces to contend for the top spot this year. The team lost Garrett Gallinger and top-pitcher Nick Gagliardi to graduation, but it returns a strong group of seniors, led by Sterling Brown, an all-league first-team third baseman, catcher Mark Sluys and pitcher/outfielder Conor Scanlan.
Brown, who batted .373 last season, wants to beat that average and earn all-league first-team honors again. He’s also hungry for a berth in the state tournament.
“We want to win league, which we haven’t done in a long time,” Brown said. “So if we can just win league, we should be able to make it to state, and it’ll just take its course from there.”
Brown said the team has excellent chemistry, and that should pay dividends.
“We’ve all been playing together for a very long time,” he said. “Probably about five guys on that team, I’ve played with since I was 8, every year. We have some good chemistry that we’re able to bring to the table, and it should take us a long way.”
Sluys, who has committed to play baseball at Brown University next year, called last season’s extra-inning loss to Auburn “brutal.” But he added defense and pitching should once again be their strength.
“We’ve got great defensive players,” Sluys said. “That’s going to be the key. We’re going to have to pitch and play defense, and then (get) timely hits. Our pitching and our defense is going to be the big thing to help us get there.”
Timely hitting has been one of the team’s biggest points of emphasis as it heads into the season. It was the first thing that come up during this year’s captains meeting.
To improve, though, the players will have to do more outside of practice, Scanlan said.
“We can only take so many cuts out here in the cages when we’re trying to get other stuff done, too,” Scanlan said. “I think the accountability piece comes. We have to take time after practice to get in the cage or work on tee stuff. That’s going to be where the change comes from.
“When something is not working right, we have to hold each other accountable to fix it. That’s going to be the big change.”
This year’s team is slightly smaller than last season’s, but Scanlan said he thinks that could play to their advantage. Despite fewer players, the Tides have good depth in their starting pitching rotation.
“We have a smaller team than we did last year, and part of that is because we want everyone to know exactly what their role is,” Scanlan said. “I think that’s huge in winning games (in the) postseason is having each and every guy have a role that he can hold onto and make sure he gets it done. That’s a big thing.”
Jansen said he’s encouraged by what he’s seen form his team so far.
“We’ve got about seven or eight guys that can throw,” he said. “When you’re playing three games a week, sometimes you have four games in a week. We’ve got guys that can go to the mound and give us some good innings.
“Our defense is really good. We’ve got some really good gloves on the team. We just need to score more runs than we did last year. I think if we can do that, we’ll be in a lot of games, and that’ll put us in a good spot.”
gig harbor baseball
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April 30at Olympia4 p.m.Sports reporter Jon Manley can be reached at 253-358-4151 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_jon.