When the Gig Harbor Tides baseball team opens its season Monday against the Curtis Vikings, they’ll have a chance to do something special for coach Pete Jansen.
Jansen, who is beginning his 24th season at the program’s helm, has a chance at his 300th career victory. The milestone nearly happened last season, but rain wiped out most of the Narrows League tournament before the Tides lost their two district-tourney games to Kentwood and Auburn Riverside.
Jansen’s teams always have high expectations, and nothing is different going into 2013. Senior infielder Haak Wagner said the players don’t want to waste any time as they work toward getting their coach his 300th win.
“We want to do that the first game and help him out,” Wagner said. “He’s just trying to keep us focused, get us ready for the season and have a good year.”
Gig Harbor has molded many quality pitchers in the past quarter-century, including recent big-league signings Brandon Rohde (Atlanta Braves) and Jason Van Skike (Chicago White Sox).
Nick Gagliardi, who will play at Santa Clara University next spring, is the undisputed ace of this year’s Tides rotation. The senior right-hander should eat up a lot of innings and keep his team in every game he starts.
“He’s amazing,” Wagner said. “He did great last season, and I hope he brings it all the way through this season.”
The rest of the Tides’ rotation is somewhat unproven, but not without skill. Wagner and fellow senior Kody Davis will see their fair share of action, as well as junior Conor Scanlan and two first-year varsity players, Hunter Johnson and Aidan O’Neill.
Matthew Henckel, the lone sophomore on the roster, could contribute once he recovers from a knee injury, Jansen said.
“We were really high on him at the end of last year,” the coach said. “He’ll get a chance to pitch when the doctor says it’s OK and he’s ready. We’re not going to hurry that at all.”
“We’ve got a couple guys that throw pretty hard, and a couple guys that bring off-speed (pitches), so hopefully they’ll mix it up and get a lot of outs,” Wagner said.
Like last season, the Tides will platoon at catcher, with returning senior Colten Miller battling with incoming junior Mark Sluys for playing time.
Gig Harbor lost three-quarters of its infield to graduation. Senior Garrett Gallinger, the only returner, will shift from third base to first. Gallinger is the team’s clean-up hitter and perhaps its only consistent home-run threat.
“I think we’ve got a lot of speed early in the order, so if we get guys on, I think he’ll drive in a lot of runs,” Wagner said. “And then, hopefully, we find somebody to fill in after him.”
The infield is versatile, with Wagner, Sterling Brown and Quintin Carlson the likely starters heading into the season opener. Each of them can play second, third or shortstop.
It’s a similar situation in the outfield, where five guys figure to split playing time. Drew Frame is the most experienced option, and the senior showed promise as a leadoff hitter last season.
The other outfielders are returning senior Owen Guenther, juniors Drew Barnett and Scanlan, and Drew Nordi, a senior who chose to play baseball instead of soccer.
Barnett could be one of the team’s wild cards, Jansen said.
“He’s kind of a human highlight film,” the coach said. “You will not see him in a clean uniform at the end of the game. He gets great reads. He makes diving catches all the time.”
Jansen said the players who perform well will get the chance to perform again, making every practice and game crucial. The coach also plans to look beyond the stat sheet to judge success.
“We’re also focusing on some other things, like character and leadership, playing with confidence and playing as a competitor,” he said. “It’s easy to say you can do those things, but unless you really understand what it takes to do it and you commit yourself (you can’t).”Sports Editor Neil Pierson can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_neil.