Softball preview | Defending state champ Eastlake reloads roster

The phrase “rebuilding year” might be an understatement for the defending 4A state championship Eastlake fastpitch team.

The phrase “rebuilding year” might be an understatement for the defending 4A state championship Eastlake fastpitch team.

But new head coach Al Leaverenz likes what he brings to the field in 2009.

“I think we’re going to surprise a few teams this year, for the better,” he said.

The Wolves, who finished 26-4 last season and defeated nationally ranked Shadle Park for the 4A state title, return just three players from their 2008 roster. They graduated 10 seniors.

Familiarity won’t be an issue for Leaverenz, who assisted Eastlake the last six seasons under George Crowder.

“A lot of these girls I’ve known through Little League and that kind of thing,” he said.

Returning to the varsity roster are senior infielder Laura Bachman, senior infielder Lexi Esser and senior outfielder Hilary Hanson. The three saw limited time on varsity last year, and are all captains this season. The Wolves have just three players — senior outfielder Serena Norris, senior outfielder Kaitlyn Kamstra and junior pitcher Lindsi Augenstein — who played on junior varsity last year.

The remaining eight players are sophomores.

Outfielder Sammy Stavig and pitcher Nicole Guptil are two 10th-graders expected to make immediate impacts. Guptil, along with Augenstein and Bachman will take over the pitching duties this season — a position that is no doubt crucial to success in fastpitch.

“That’s kind of the main thing, finding out what kind of control they have,” Leaverenz said. “I don’t care how hard they throw, it’s all about control.”

The other varsity players include Katie Brinton, Morgan Conover, Jenna Eggleston, Riley Elliott, Brook Jaeger and Kathryne Staudinger. There isn’t a junior varsity team this season, in large part because freshmen aren’t allowed to compete in softball in the Lake Washington School District.

That leaves the Wolves at a disadvantage when going up against schools from the Issaquah and Northshore school districts who allow freshmen to compete.

“We need our ninth graders,” Leaverenz said. “There’s quite a big handful of ninth graders.”

Leaverenz noted that Issaquah, Newport, Redmond and Lake Washington should all be strong this year. While his team is young, he is confident they have enough talent to make noise in the KingCo 4A.

“Hopefully we can make the KingCo tournament and see what happens,” Leaverenz said. “Hopefully by that time of the year we’ll know who we are and what we’re about, and hopefully we’ll be peaking at the right time and surprise some people.”