Playing at the state tournament was a learning experience for the Coupeville Babe Ruth team last year. This time around, the Wolves should be in the running for title.
Coupeville completed the 2018 regular season undefeated, beating Mount Vernon twice Monday in the league finale to run its record to 16-0.
By winning the conference, the Wolves qualified for the state tournament July 11-15 in Ephrata.
Coupeville earned a state berth last year as well, playing in the 14U division. The Wolves blew an 8-0 lead and lost 17-12 in the tournament opener and then fell 12-2 in round two and was eliminated.
“I think the kids really enjoyed the experience despite losing both games and are hungry to come back and prove that we have a much stronger team this year,” coach Steve Hilborn said. “We learned that there are some darn good hitters out there, and you have to make the plays on defense. Walks and errors will kill any team.
“We also learned that our depth in pitching wasn’t what we thought it was come tournament time.”
Two areas — pitching depth and defense — that hurt the Wolves at state last year are strengths this year.
“We are going into the tournament with three No. 1 pitchers,” Hilborn said. “I honestly don’t know who to start in game one yet.
“(We) are averaging less than an error per game, which is fantastic at this level. And our team ERA is about 1.5, and since the second week of the season we haven’t given up more than three runs in any game.”
The undefeated regular season was the result of playing “some great ball in all aspects of the game,” according to Hilborn.
The team has learned to play together, as well, Hilborn noted.
“We only have two new faces this year and many of these kids I have coached for five years,” he said.
One of the new faces, pitcher/shortstop Ashton Leland, filled the void of losing one of last year’s top players, according to Hilborn.
Hilborn is reluctant to single out individuals who have made an impact this season because the team is “such a good group of kids.”
He said one shining spot has been Hawthorne Wolfe, who is hitting over .500 and “locking down” centerfield.
Hilborn added that the team’s success goes beyond game performances and is buoyed by the players’ attitudes.
Sage Sharp, he said as an example, “has mowed the entire field twice with only his little riding mower, and he shows up to every practice and game long before anyone else.”
With that mind-set, Sharp and company are now looking to cut down some opponents at the state tournament.