A sloppy, rain-soaked field forced the Peninsula High School baseball team indoors on Friday, but the change of plans didn’t provoke an apathetic response from players.
With barely any horseplay or wasted energy, the Seahawks tossed the ball around the bases with the precision of major-leaguers. In a corner of the gymnasium, players took turns hitting into a net, their swings as ferocious as lumberjacks.
Nearby, first-year head coach Pete Weymiller and assistant Andy Mattingly observed and chatted.
They hadn’t given any instructions to start practice.
“They’re self-starters,” said Weymiller, who took over the program last summer when Marco Malich retired after 33 seasons. “You don’t have to say anything to them. They know what they’re doing.”
It’s those kinds of qualities that have Peninsula believing it can compete for the Class 3A state championship. Last spring, the Seahawks stuck right with defending champion Mount Si, and a botched rundown may have been the only thing that kept them from competing in the state quarterfinals.
Sure, the team has its share of holes to fill following the graduation losses of outfielder Blake Valley, first baseman Joseph Hanley and ace pitcher Andrew Mattingly, but the Seahawks aren’t doubting their abilities to adjust.
“We have great senior leadership,” senior Kory Vanderstaay said. “We’re deep everywhere. The outfield is really solid. Our infield is just as solid.”
Replacing a local legend wouldn’t be the ideal situation for every coach, but Weymiller was Malich’s assistant for a decade, and he knows many of his players and their families from as far back as Little League.
“For me, it’s one of those once-in-a-coaching-career opportunities,” Weymiller said. “All the other programs I stepped into were rebuilding, so the expectations were low. With these guys, the expectations are high, but they place it on themselves.”
The Seahawks may not miss a beat with their new coach.
“Not much changes,” senior Jimmy Price said. “Pete Weymiller is definitely a very good coach, and he’s going to show it this year.”
Peninsula’s pitching rotation will be deep once again. Senior Alex Weymiller, the coach’s son, is the top option. A hot-hitting shortstop with a high on-base percentage, Weymiller plans to play in college at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y.
Scott Russell, who was thrown onto the mound in a pinch last season, will have a much bigger role as a senior. Price and Austin Filkins are the leading contenders to fill the other starting pitching slots.
Russell will play second base when he’s not pitching, and he will form a strong double-play combination with Weymiller. Jake Richards will move from designated hitter to first base, and Filkins has been very impressive in early season workouts, apparently running away with the third baseman’s job.
“We thought we’d have some young guys pushing Filky, but Filky is just showing that he’s the man at third base,” Pete Weymiller said.
There’s a third member of the Weymiller clan on the team. Ben, a sophomore, came into the varsity lineup late last season, and he has blossomed into the likely starter in center field.
Vanderstaay, who has fully recovered from an ankle injury that derailed his entire senior year of football, will play in left field. Price and fellow senior Doug Kanouse likely will split time in right field, and Kanouse has the ability to play third base when Filkins pitches.
Peninsula won 18 games and the South Puget Sound League title in 2012, but the 2-1 loss to Mount Si in the state’s round of 16 still stings a bit, Vanderstaay said.
“It was disappointing because we felt we could really compete for a state title last year,” he said. “We lost to a really good team in Mount Si, and we played them really tough. It was a close game all the way through, and it was tough to get knocked out like that. But it just makes me more hungry this year.”
Price thinks opponents will struggle to keep the Seahawks off the scoreboard.
“I don’t see a single player that can’t hit well,” he said. “Everybody has a position they can be in, and they’re excelling at that position. Everybody is challenging themselves.”Sports Editor Neil Pierson can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_neil.