Spend any time around the Peninsula High School fastpitch team this season and one thing becomes clear: This team has a different level of energy and confidence than teams in the past.
Peninsula is off to a 5-1 overall start, with a 2-1 record in the Class 3A South Sound Conference. At least part of the team’s hot start can simply be attributing to a self-belief that wasn’t always present before.
“We’re playing with a lot of confidence,” said senior second baseman Baily Paul. “We go out knowing that people should be scared of us. … We come in knowing we’re going to be a tough team to beat.”
Paul has been a big factor in the team’s early success. She’s batting .667 in the early going.
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“I’ve just been seeing the ball pretty well,” Paul said. “I have a lot of confidence going up there.”
She also has five stolen bases to her name.
“My favorite part of the game is base running, so that’s my motivation to get on base,” Paul said. “I love racing the catchers, stealing the catchers, challenging the other team to try to get me out.”
On the mound, senior Kirsten Ritchie has been dominant for the Seahawks. She has posted a 2.03 earned run average for Peninsula.
“It’s my third year working with my catcher (Ali Campigotto) and having a good relationship with her has been a great thing,” Ritchie said. “We just have really got the communication down. She always knows what I’m thinking and is always there to help me however I can.”
It’s the second season at the helm for coach Pete Pratz, who is also as an assistant on Ross Filkins’ football staff.
“He’s a great coach, super fun, very loud, likes to joke around with us,” Paul said. “He’s brought a lot of confidence to the team. He’s motivational. He’s definitely loud, being with the football team.”
The players credit Pratz’s upbeat attitude with helping the team’s play.
“His attitude is always positive, motivational,” Ritchie said. “He’s a great guy to work with.”
Peninsula dropped its first game of the season on March 26 to league-favorite Yelm, 9-0. Otherwise, it’s been a fantastic start to the season.
“Just coming in with a positive mentality has been successful for us in the first few games,” Ritchie said. “We came in and knew if we played well defensively, offensively, things would start happening.”
While Yelm remains the league favorite, Gig Harbor may be positioned to take a step back this year, losing ace pitcher Jordan Adams to graduation last spring. Peninsula hopes to take advantage of that fact.
“We’re out for Gig Harbor this year,” Paul said. “That’s what’s been on my mind lately. I feel like we’re ready.”
And Peninsula will get one more crack at Yelm during the regular season, in a road game on April 23.
“We definitely more confidence at the plate,” Paul said. “We were timid playing them, knowing they were undefeated this year. We all went out with some butterflies in our stomach. We definitely need to eliminate some errors in the field. If we come at our best, we have what it takes to beat them, or compete with them.”
Ritchie hopes this year will be one to remember.
“I just hope that we have a fun season, have some success and hope we can make our school and community proud,” she said.
Peninsula hosts crosstown rival Gig Harbor next on April 2 at Sehmel Homestead Park. First pitch is set for 4 p.m.
Jon Manley: 253-358-4151, @gateway_jon