Gig Harbor junior Anna Stewart knows that trial by fire isn’t always a bad thing. Losing, early in the season, can pave the way for better results later in the season.
That lesson became crystal clear during her winter basketball season, when Gig Harbor scheduled some tough non-league games, posted six losses total on the season, and then went on to win the Class 3A state title.
So when the Gig Harbor fastpitch team started off with a 2-4 overall record, with losses to strong programs such as a Bonney Lake and Puyallup, Stewart, the team’s center fielder, took it in stride.
“We always have a tough schedule in the beginning,” Stewart said. “It was kind of the same thing for basketball. We play a tough schedule but you learn from it. For the state tournament, those are the kind of teams you’re going to be playing. We’re building.”
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Maybe it’ll pay off with a fastpitch state title, too?
“Exactly — that’s what we’re hoping,” Stewart said.
That may be slightly optimistic for a team that lost its ace to graduation. Without Jordan Adams, Gig Harbor figures to take a step back after taking seventh in state last season. But with a 2-1 record in the 3A South Sound Conference, Gig Harbor is starting to heat up.
“We had some strong seniors last season,” said senior shortstop Lauren Forseth. “It’s tough to replace them this year but our younger kids are doing a really good job stepping up and filling some holes. We’re doing a good job coming together as a team and just putting age behind us and just focusing on winning ballgames.”
One newcomer is catcher/pitcher/utility player Diavionne DeWalt, a transfer from South Kitsap who has given the Tides a boost this season. DeWalt couldn’t play as a junior last season due to transfer rules. Now she’s getting a chance to contribute in her senior season.
“I’m really excited,” DeWalt said. “I got to meet the girls last year and it was really fun. Now I’m excited to actually be able to play and be a part of the team, and hopefully win. I think we’re going to make it to the postseason and we’re going to be really good. We’re playing some good teams, going to get out practice in and fix what we need to fix and we’ll be good.”
While Gig Harbor isn’t as dominant on the mound this season, the defense is still as strong as ever, led by Forseth.
“It’s hard without our ace but our pitchers are doing a really good job filling in and our defense is playing strong behind them,” Forseth said. “I’m just trying to support my pitchers and keep them up in our games. Just doing whatever it takes to get the job done.”
League-favorite Yelm has been a thorn in Gig Harbor’s side since its formation. The Tornados won the first meeting this season, 5-1 on March 21. If Gig Harbor is going to challenge for the league title, it will have to crack the Yelm code. For Forseth, it’s a challenge she embraces.
“I really like playing Yelm because it pushes us to really play as a team and step up,” she said. “We make one mistake and it can cost us the game. It’s really fun to come together and all support each other and go at it versus stepping up and just thinking we have the game. We’ve got to work to get our wins.”
Stewart said she expects the league slate to be tougher this year, with teams like Peninsula seemingly on the rise.
“I think it’s definitely going to be harder than last year,” Stewart said. “The teams are getting better all around, it’s getting more even, which is great for us. We have some better competition to get ready for state. It’ll be nice to have some teams that are more comparable to us in our league. I want to get back to state. I felt like we could’ve done a little better last year. We still did great. Just getting back to state, just getting one step further.”
Gig Harbor plays crosstown rival Peninsula next on April 2 at Sehmel Homestead Park. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.
Jon Manley: 253-358-4151, @gateway_jon