Prep preview / Coupeville baseball

The Coupeville High School baseball team is aiming to climb back to the top of the Olympic League mountain this season.

The Wolves won the conference title in 2016 but slipped to second last spring. Regaining the top spot is a reasonable goal for Coupeville with the return of seven starters and the entire pitching rotation.

Pacing the attack will be senior Hunter Smith, a two-time all-league pitcher and a three-year starter in the middle infield. Also back is all-Olympic League infielder junior Matt Hilborn, who will also pitch.

Other returnees include seniors Joey Lippo (center field, pitcher), Nick Etzell (second base, pitcher), Julian Wellings (first base, pitcher) and Jake Hoagland (outfield) and junior Dane Lucero (third base, pitcher).

Coach Chris Smith said the team’s strength is its experience: “We will be playing virtually all upperclassmen.”

“Our lineup will be tough one through nine,” he added.

Others expected to fill out the lineup are senior outfielders Kyle Rockwell, Jacob Zettle and James Vidoni; juniors Ty Eck (outfield, pitcher, catcher) and Jake Pease (third base, first base); and sophomore Gavin Knoblich (catcher).

Eck returns to the Wolves after transferring two years ago.

Another strength, according to Smith, is his coaching staff, which includes Mike Etzell, Josh Welshans, Aaron Lucero, Steve Hilborn and CJ Smith.

“Each of these individuals brings a different dynamic to the table, and I believe this will go a long way in helping our varsity to succeed and to help our JV to develop for the future. This is extremely important this year considering that eight of our 13 varsity players are seniors.”

The goal this season, Smith said, is to be “the best team on the field every game we play, win or lose; to compete with class; and to win our league and to win at least one playoff game. Everything else is icing on the cake.”

The Wolves (11-9 last year) open the season with three home games, starting with Lynden Christian (13-11) at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 10.