Posts Tagged ‘Spring Sports Preview’

Sophomore slugger Madison McMillan is back to launch more dingers. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Never back down.

Coming off of back-to-back Northwest 2B/1B League titles — without a loss in league play — the Coupeville High School softball team heads into a new season intent on continuing its strong work.

Facing a tough non-league schedule, and adjusting to life without standout pitcher Izzy Wells, will give Kevin McGranahan’s squad plenty to overcome, but that’s the plan.

“Our goals remain the same as in every season,” McGranahan said. “Have fun, win the league again, earn a trip to state and compete.

“If we continue to play as a team and for one another then we can accomplish all those goals.”

Coupeville lost four players to graduation, led by Izzy Wells and hot-hitting Audrianna Shaw, who were part of a state tourney team as freshmen.

Also gone is sophomore catcher Savina Wells, now in Florida after a family move.

While the Wolves have five seniors atop the roster — Sofia Peters, Gwen Gustafson, Allie Lucero, Melanie Navarro, and Maya Lucero — they have less on-field experience than previous groups thanks to the pandemic.

Covid swept away their freshman season before it began, then limited them to just a handful of league games as sophomores.

Last season was the first time in three years Coupeville, and its foes, were allowed to play a full season.

Sofia Peters is one of five Wolf seniors.

The current group of seniors is joined by a strong group of younger players, many of whom were starters or key contributors last season.

Current sophomores Madison McMillan, Mia Farris, Chloe Marzocca, Jada Heaton, and Taylor Brotemarkle and freshman Teagan Calkins — who saw varsity action as an 8th grader — form a strong core.

Add in current 8th graders Haylee Armstrong and Capri Anter, as well as 7th grader Rhylin Price — who can practice, but not play in games this season — and the Wolves continue to build for the future while remaining competitive today.

“They are going to be an integral piece for this program the next few seasons as our numbers are ebbing and not flowing at the moment,” McGranahan said.

However the lineup breaks down, the Wolves will retain their normal scrappiness, while finetuning their collective skill sets.

“This team will need to be able to lean on one another and play as a team and play for each other in order to succeed,” McGranahan said. “I think from what I am seeing so far at practice we are taking the right strides and will be very competitive again this year in our league.

“Our strengths will be our never say die attitude and competitiveness.

“We are never going to be out of a game and will compete to the last pitch; that is something these players take pride in.”

Melanie Navarro anchors a hard-hitting lineup.

Six of seven schools in the Northwest 2B/1B League play softball, with Mount Vernon Christian sitting out the season.

Ultimately, though, it’s the games against fellow 2B teams La Conner and Friday Harbor which will dictate Coupeville’s playoff seeding.

“As it goes every year the league title will come down to how we do against Friday Harbor,” McGranahan said.

“The gap has narrowed somewhat but I still feel we have the edge and would take our athletes over theirs all day, every day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

“These young ladies never cease to amaze me with how they attack practices and games,” he added.

“We have a huge bullseye on our back — we have to be ready for everyone’s “A” game every time we play.”

To prepare, the Wolves will put in time and effort every day.

“We will be working on our softball IQ this season and creating a standard for this program going forward,” McGranahan said.

“We are always working on the offense and defense in practice but this season we will also focus on the little things and the more technical aspects of the game.

“We chose to schedule a VERY tough out of conference schedule so we can get ourselves ready for the post season and state should we earn a spot,” he added.

“I am challenging these players to answer the call and show us what they have.”

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Wolf junior Peyton Caveness is a key returning player for CHS baseball. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

They’re chasing that state tourney dream.

The Coupeville High School baseball team came within a play here, a play there of earning the 10th trip to the big dance in program history last spring.

But it wasn’t to be, as the Wolves, coming off of a regular-season Northwest 2B/1B League title, fell 3-2 to Friday Harbor in a winner-to-state, loser-out playoff game.

Jump forward a year, flip out coaches, with former assistant Steve Hilborn taking the reins after Will Thayer’s move to Vegas, and Coupeville is back on the chase.

The Wolves lost five players to graduation, including league MVP Hawthorne Wolfe and All-League picks Xavier Murdy and Cody Roberts.

But Steve Hilborn can still put together a rock-solid lineup which is anchored by All-League players Scott Hilborn and Jonathan Valenzuela and features a wealth of talented young stars.

Some of the names may be different, but the job remains the same.

“Simple, sweep Friday Harbor, win league, go to state,” was Steve Hilborn’s reply when asked about goals.

The schools, which split two regular-season games last spring, are set to play three times this year.

Game #1, on Friday Harbor, is Mar. 28, while the Wolverines travel to Coupeville Apr. 18. Things wrap up May 4 back on Friday Harbor for the regular-season finale.

While that three-game series will likely dictate who wins the league title, Steve Hilborn is not looking past anyone in the seven-team NWL.

“Friday Harbor is the obvious one – I don’t believe they lost too many seniors from last year,” he said.

“But also Mount Vernon Christian, and Orcas had some good young talent and might surprise some teams this year.”

Steve Hilborn expects pitching to be his team’s biggest strength, with seniors Scott Hilborn and Valenzuela teaming up with freshman Chase Anderson to form the core of the staff.

While Anderson is only a fab frosh, he already has extensive varsity experience, having been a starting infielder and pitching for the Wolves as an 8th grader.

“The Magic Man” was the backup QB for the Wolf varsity football team as a freshman, leading the team in the second half of its state playoff game, and was a key member of the CHS varsity boys’ basketball squad.

“I think our pitching will be solid with our three main starters,” Steve Hilborn said. “I don’t think it’s just nepotism, but Scott was a huge part of all aspects of our game last year and we’ll need him to anchor the pitching staff this year.

“I expect Jon and Chase to be our other two main starters, with a few other players carrying the remaining load.”

First-Team All-Conference player Scott Hilborn is back for his senior season.

The team’s biggest question mark is likely behind the plate, with the team having lost the always-steady Murdy.

“Catcher is going to be a huge void to fill with Xavier gone,” Steve Hilborn said.

“We are looking at Peyton (Caveness) and Jon for that spot with Johnny (Porter) in there as well.”

The Wolves would love to see their offense kick things into gear, taking some of the pressure off of their pitching staff. Not every game has to be a low-run thriller.

“When it comes to offense you never know who might surprise you,” Steve Hilborn said. “Cole (White) and Peyton came through with some clutch hits last year and we expect more of that this year.

“Little too early to tell, but historically we haven’t hit that consistently and we want to change that,” he added. “We want every at-bat to have a plan and an approach.

“We might still strike out in a good battle, but, if we follow our approach and don’t flail away at three bad pitches, it can still be a win.”

The first day of practice attracted a solid group of young players, though the Wolves are still interested in adding bodies. At the 2B level, that can include 8th graders.

“We have quite a few freshmen, several of which played as 8th graders last year,” Steve Hilborn said. “At the first practice we had three new faces — Jayme Carranza, Parker Fuller-Hewitt, and David Dominici.

“We would like a few more players to fill out two teams, and we would love some 8th graders if any are interested.”

However the roster breaks down, the Wolves and their new head coach aim to bring a smile to the faces of old-school fans.

“We want to be the team of details,” Steve Hilborn said. “To do the little things right that add up to runs at the plate, outs on defense, and eventually wins.”

Steve Hilborn plots strategy.

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Senior Mckenna Somes is a key returning player for the Coupeville High School softball squad. (Jackie Saia photos)

How do you follow up perfection?

Hopefully with a lot more of the same.

At least that’s the goal for the Coupeville High School softball program, which is coming off a 12-0 run during a pandemic-shortened 2021 season.

“Big expectations for this season!” said Wolf coach Kevin McGranahan.

“Our goals are to win the league, be the number one seed for districts, and go to state and cause a whole lot of havoc once there.”

The last time any softball teams had a chance to advance to the big dance, way back in 2019, that’s exactly what Coupeville did – cause some havoc.

Playing in the 1A classification at the time, the Wolves, with freshman hurler Izzy Wells firing BB’s from the pitcher’s circle, thrashed highly rated Deer Park and came within a play of upending Cle Elum.

That capped a three-games-in-one-day jaunt which kicked off with a game against eventual state champ Montesano.

Coupeville was primed for more, and then, whammo, pandemic city.

A 2020 season completely erased by Covid, then a 2021 one chopped down to just league contests, with no playoffs.

But as Wells and hard-hitting Audrianna Shaw — the other remaining member of the 2019 state tourney team — take the field for their senior season, things are looking up.

Coupeville has a full 20-game regular-season schedule which includes non-conference matchups with bigger schools such as Lynden Christian and South Whidbey.

Plus, the promise of the postseason is a thing again.

“The girls need this,” McGranahan said. “I hope that we can play a normal season and playoffs and they can finally put this behind them.”

Wells and Shaw are joined by returning players such as senior Mckenna Somes and juniors Allie and Maya Lucero.

“They will anchor our defense and provide the offensive spark we need,” McGranahan said.

Allie Lucero is a weapon on both offense and defense.

Coupeville has a deep roster, with a strong pack of nine freshmen making the jump to high school ball after finishing their little league careers with a fourth-place finish at the state tournament.

Those young Wolves, players like Taylor Brotemarkle, Madison McMillan, and Savina Wells, can contribute today and tomorrow.

“We have 22 girls out this season and every one of them are essential to the program and getting us to our goals,” McGranahan said.

“The freshmen will be key to carry the program into the future seasons and will have big moments this season as well.

While the Wolves crushed their way through the Northwest 2B/1B League last season, outscoring foes 154-41 across those 12 wins, McGranahan takes nothing for granted.

In particular, he has his eye on Friday Harbor, which will be young but also is likely to “be our toughest test in the league.”

Whether the foes hail from the NWL or not, McGranahan and his players will approach each game with an eye on always getting better.

“We need to work on our softball IQ,” he said. “We are a young team and need to get softball smart.

“Great athletes — just need to harness the softball knowledge.”

Coupeville has a power pitcher, strong hitters, steady defenders, and a few secrets, as McGranahan is keeping some things close to the vest.

Asked about his team’s best points, the veteran coach just smiled.

“Everyone will see our strengths soon enough. Not gonna give out that info,” he said with a laugh, before going right back to work.

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Hawthorne Wolfe and fellow seniors are ready to dominate the diamond. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Will Thayer may need to pace himself.

The Coupeville High School baseball guru is entering his third season at the school but will finally be getting his first crack at a full schedule.

Thayer’s first job at CHS — as an assistant coach with Wolf softball — evaporated when all spring sports were erased by the pandemic.

Last year, he stepped into a new role atop the school’s baseball program, but schools only played against league rivals, with no chance of advancing to playoffs.

Toss in some cancellations, and Thayer and Co. had to make do with a 10-game schedule, one in which they went 7-3 to finish second in the Northwest 2B/1B League.

But this spring, hope abounds, with Wolf baseball eyeing a 20-game regular season campaign, and the postseason the prize at the end of the road.

Add in the end of mask mandates and Covid testing for prep athletes, and the mood is joyful.

“I think the biggest thing for these players was no notes and no masks seemed to be what they were the happiest about on the first day of practice,” Thayer said.

“Playing a full 20 games will be awesome and having something to play for like district titles and playoffs,” he added. “Playing a normal schedule will be a blessing to me.”

Only one team beat Coupeville last season, and the Wolves are chomping for some revenge.

“Friday Harbor is going to stand in our way, and, if we come together, we should be able to take the title away from them,” Thayer said.

Coupeville’s coaches and players have a list of items to accomplish, from being league and district champs, to returning to the state tournament, and “continuing to build the program.”

Thayer only lost one player to graduation and returns a roster which offers “lots of senior leadership.”

“I think pitching and defense will be our strength this year,” he said.

Cody Roberts headlines Coupeville’s pitching staff. (Morgan White photo)

Now the Wolves want to add some pop when batting.

“Just becoming more consistent at the plate,” Thayer said. “We have lots of great athletes; if they become consistent hitters, we will be able to do some special things this year.”

Seniors Cody Roberts (P, OF), Hawthorne Wolfe (P, OF), Xavier Murdy (P, C, INF), and Sage Sharp (UTL) lead the returnees, and are joined by juniors Scott Hilborn (P, SS) and Jonathan Valenzuela (P, 3B) and sophomore Peyton Caveness (1B).

Senior Caleb Meyer, a Little League star back in the day, returns to Coupeville for his final season, while junior Alex Murdy joins his brother on the diamond with soccer having moved from spring to fall.

And the cupboard won’t be bare when this year’s deep senior class departs, as the Wolves have a solid group of freshmen and eighth graders joining the program.

“I’m excited about young talent like Chase Anderson, Camden Glover, Landon Roberts, and Jack and Johnny Porter,” Thayer said.

Scott Hilborn is a vacuum at shortstop. (Morgan White photo)

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After the pandemic stole away the 2020 season, Catherine Lhamon is one of the few Coupeville High School track stars with prior experience. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

From young guns to old pros.

Thanks to the pandemic, the last time Coupeville High School track and field athletes competed was nearly two years ago.

Way back on May 25, 2019, as the state tournament wrapped up, Ja’Kenya Hoskins and Logan Martin were freshmen.

Now, after a lost spring and a long wait, the duo are juniors and have gone from supporting crew to frontline stars.

Hoskins is the only active Wolf track athlete to have a state meet medal — she was part of a 4 x 200 relay squad which finished 3rd in Cheney in ’19.

Now, with all of her former relay mates having graduated, she’s likely to be running sprints and doing jumps, said longtime CHS track guru Randy King.

Ja’Kenya is back and eager to begin competing again!”

Martin, who spent many of the 650 days between track seasons working on his skills, is primed to have a breakout as a thrower.

Older brother Dalton, who won four state meet medals during his CHS days, holds the school discus record.

Now lil’ bro is coming for big bro’s best marks.

Logan has worked both last spring and this fall and winter to improve his throws, and looks destined to do extremely well,” King said.

“The discus is jumping out of his hand and he appears to have mastered a new technique in the shot put,” he added. “I expect his discus throws to have improved by over 30 feet since his freshman year.”

Logan Martin is coming for all of older brother Dalton’s throwing records.

Hoskins and Martin lead a squad which has 24 athletes as it preps for its debut in the Northwest 2B/1B League.

In this pared-down season, Coupeville is set to host the season-opening meet March 4, and the season-closing rumble April 3.

Other returning athletes include Megan Behan and Aurora Cernick in the throwing events, and cross country state meet vet Catherine Lhamon in the distance races.

On the boys side of things, the move from 1A to 2B pushes soccer from spring to fall, allowing Wolf booters to join the track squad.

That has netted the squad at least three cross country-hardened runners in Sam Wynn, Mitchell Hall, and Aiden Wilson.

“We are excited to have them out,” King said. “Kudos to Coach (Elizabeth) Bitting and Coach (Jon) Gabelein for their work with our distance runners this school year.

“They have been training for quite a while and are hitting the track season “in stride”!”

With the missed season, a fair amount of the team is made up of newcomers, some of whom intended to compete last spring before COVID shut down Washington state schools.

On the girls side, Maylin Steele (jumps and javelin), Erica McGrath (javelin), Camryn Clark (hurdles and sprints), and Cristine McGrath (jumps and hurdles) are all brand new to high school track.

The most-promising youngster may be basketball brawler Carolyn Lhamon, a sophomore who was a top-notch track performer in middle school.

Carolyn looks great in the shot put for us, and can be counted on to give a gutsy performance in the 400-meter run,” King said.

Freshman Tate Wyman and Josh Guay, sophomore Dominic Coffman, Alex Murdy, and Reiley Araceley, and senior Ben Smith are all expected to have impact for the boys team, as well.

During this pandemic spring, Coupeville will compete against league mates, and won’t have a chance to attend any invitationals or large meets as in years past.

That means the Wolves will mainly vie with La Conner, Concrete, Mount Vernon Christian, and Friday Harbor.

Darrington doesn’t field a track team, while Orcas Island is skipping spring sports and waiting until its students are back in class before competing.

MVC track, especially on the boys side of things, is a state-title-winning powerhouse in 1B, while La Conner is always tough.

But for King, who retired as a teacher last year but stayed on as the school’s longest-tenured coach, the chance to get back out to the track oval is about what his athletes can accomplish, not who they have to face.

“They have been a fun group to work with!,” he said. “Our team is young, so it will be great to see how our season develops.”

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