Gateway: Sports

New era for Peninsula softball: First-year coach Paul looking to replace top hitter, pitcher

Peninsula lost its best player to graduation last spring in second baseman Baily Paul, who headed off to Seattle University to continue her softball career.

It seems sophomore first baseman Emily Barry is up to the challenging of replacing that lost production at the plate.

Through four non-league games, Barry is batting .700 with two doubles, two triples and two RBI.

“I’ve just been on time this year,” Barry said. “Last year, I was nervous so I just bunted most of the season. This year, I’ve been getting onto pitches and swinging faster.”

Of course, getting a new bat and some private swing instruction helped, also. To first-year coach Mike Paul, the difference in Barry’s approach at the plate and her swing mechanics has been obvious.

“She’s changed her swing a lot,” Paul said. “She’s getting quality at bats. Every time, she gets deep with strikes. She’s just seeing the ball well and you just can’t get her out right now. Every ball, she’s putting into play. It’s impressive. It’s as good as I’ve seen a kid hit to start a year.”

According to Paul, the biggest difference has been with her balance.

“She used to get over the top, way over her front side,” Paul said. “Now, she’s way more balanced, sitting on changeups; she’s a tough out. Her hands are a lot better and she’s seeing the ball just amazing. It has to be a watermelon to her right now.”

Peninsula has a 2-2 record this season with wins over Bellarmine and Vashon Island and losses to Spanaway Lake and South Kitsap. The Seahawks also have to replace four-year starting pitcher Kirsten Ritchie, who was a mainstay during her high school career and the team’s No. 1 pitcher the past four years.

Aislinn O’Reilly, Audrey Krishnadasan, Ashley Gonsalves and Anastin Lindsey have all seen time on the mound for the Seahawks.

For senior catcher Ali Campigotto, one of the team’s most experienced players and important team voices, it’s a new challenge, commanding a new pitching staff.

“It’s different to get a new feel for different pitchers,” Campigotto said. “We have a lot of different players stepping up to fill the position.”

Campigotto, who was one of the top goalies in the Class 3A South Sound Conference last fall, is headed to Saint Martin’s University to continue her soccer career in the fall. A defensive instinct is in her nature, it seems.

“Just blocking the ball is my main goal in both sports, just keeping the ball in front of me,” Campigotto said.

In all of her three seasons on the softball team, the Seahawks have come up just short of reaching the Class 3A state tournament.

“I’m hoping this can be the year we pull it off,” Campigotto said. “I think for me, the biggest thing is just to work our hardest the whole season. We’re looking pretty strong. We’ve got a lot of young talent right now and that’s looking good for the future.”

Paul said the team’s mental approach to games is the biggest difference between winning and losing games this season.

“Pitching and defense is the key,” Paul said. “We can hit the ball, we know that. The games we’ve lost, the kids didn’t show up with the right mindset. So that’s when that senior leadership is huge. As long as they do that, we’ll have success.”