Kentridge gears up for a run at state baseball championship

Danny Torlai connects with a ball during a Kentridge High practice on Monday.  - Ross Coyle/Kent Reporter
Danny Torlai connects with a ball during a Kentridge High practice on Monday.
— image credit: Ross Coyle/Kent Reporter

Spring opens with the crack of a ball against a bat.

South Puget Sound League baseball coaches are doing their best to make the most out of limited practice time and a lightning-fast 16-game regular season.

Kentridge High School coach John Flanigan is no exception.

Flanigan, who has coached the Chargers for 14 years, hopes to bring his team a state title after three years of high district and state placements. Last year the Chargers knocked off rival Kentwood to take third in the Class 4A state tournament.

"If we can stay mentally tough and battle through some adversity, we got a good chance to be pretty good," Flanigan said.

The Chargers are focusing on consistency. It's easy, Flanigan says, to have brain lapses due to the pace of a baseball game.

"It's such a mental game, that's the biggest thing," he said. "For the young guys, half the time you're trying to get them out of their head."

To counter this, he designs his drills to keep his players minds sharp.

"We try to make everything a competition," he said. "Every drill that we have is a competition. We try to make sure guys are focused."

One such drill, for batting, rewards players who hit line drives and grounders but penalizes them for popping fly balls. In their last game, the Chargers flew out 15 times.

While maintaining focus is important, it's just as vital to maximize training time so players can stay consistent. With few games in a regular season, Flanigan says that it's difficult to build up that consistency without rigorous practices.

"We go from our first league game which we play (Tuesday) to the last league game in five weeks," Flanigan said. "You got a five-week season, so you don't have time to be in a slump, you don't have time to not be ready to go."

Flanigan expects his veteran players to bring drive and tenacity and instill it in the newcomers. He's fielding a solid mixture of veteran talent and good young players. Returning to start for him include shortstop Andrew Barrera, an All-SPSL first-team selection last season, and pitcher Sam Dacus, who made the all-league second team. Joining them will be four-year veteran Joe Wainhouse at first base and third-year veteran Joel Condre at second base.

Danny Torlai, Isaiah Terry, Shane Stober and Taylor Poffenroth round out the starting lineup.

Flanigan says he has three promising newcomers on the varsity team – football player Carter Johnson, basketball player Nick Hopson, Matt Fleming and Ryan Schroeder.

Fleming says that his team's best aspects are pitching, but they'll need to work on hitting over the next few weeks to really up their game.

With a tough league ahead, Flanigan says that he's aware of the challenging season but believes that with the right mindset his team can get through it.

"We have, by far, the best league in the state of Washington," he says. "Every year you go back there's two SPSL teams in the final four, every year. Just to get out of your league in this league is an achievement. Every day you walk in it's a battle."

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