They are not new, but they are improved.
The Coupeville High School baseball team returns almost its entire lineup from 2012 and expects to jump up the Cascade Conference standings.
After two years of using a handful of freshmen to fill out their varsity lineup, the inexperienced and physically immature Wolves understandably struggled through 2-16 and 3-16 seasons. Now with experience and off-season workouts, the Wolves are ready to muscle their way into the upper half of the league standings.
Coach Willie Smith said, “It doesn’t really matter to these guys that a lot of people may not expect us to win as far as league and playoffs are concerned, but I have a lot of confidence that we will be surpassing a lot of people’s expectations.”
He added, “Our goal is top three in our conference.”
The Wolves are still young but most have two years of varsity experience.
Infielder Drew Chan is the only senior. Also returning are juniors Jake Tumblin (catcher), Ben Etzell (infield/pitcher), Morgan Payne (infield), Wade Schaef (outfield/pitcher), Kurtis Smith (outfield) and Brian Norris (first base); and sophomores Aaron Curtin (infield/pitcher), Aaron Trumbull (infield/pitcher), Korbin Korzan (outfield/pitcher) and Josh Bayne (infield/pitcher).
Etzell hit .429 with five doubles last year; Tumblin batted .346 with 20 stolen bases; and Bayne hit .308.
Goals, along with finishing in the top three in the conference, are to surprise the league and to make a deep run into the playoffs, coach Smith said.
“These kids are hungry to win and have worked extremely hard in the off season getting prepared to do so, Smith said. “Between our junior class and lone senior, the leadership on this team will help us come through a lot of adversity.”
The team’s strengths, according to Smith, are its pitching, versatility, athleticism, defense up the middle and familiarity with each other.
“Our pitching is strong,” he said. In addition to his capable starters, Smith said, “We have a good stock of guys that can come in and pick up some innings in relief.”
Smith expects defending state champion Archbishop Murphy and Lakewood to be the top Cascade Conference contenders.
He said, “Murphy is awful tough, but we really feel we can beat anybody in the league if we are focused and play our game. These kids are ready to turn the corner and start to win again.”
The Wolves will find out right away if they can compete with the preseason favorites, opening the season with a two-game series with Lakewood. First they travel to Lakewood Wednesday, March 13, and then host the Cougars at 4 p.m. Friday, March 15.