The Bonney Lake Panthers look to be in a great position to start out strong this year, with most of team being varsity returners from last year.
Coming back to the plate are seniors Joey Ahern, Kira Mitchell, Maddi Moore, Ele Quintanar and Emma Sulkosky, juniors Jessica Clark and Raelyn Kimmel, sophomores Hailee Hagins Jessica Holubowsky, Gabby Jones, Brooke Nelson and Shelby Welfinger.
Nelson may only be a sophomore, but she’s also returning as last year’s SPSL player of the year, with a .686 batting average, five bombs, seven triples, 56 RBI and .77 ERA. As a pitcher, she struck out 1.5 batters on average every inning.
Nelson isn’t the lone achiever on the team; Ahern and Quintanar are both four-year varsity returners and were both all-conference players last year with batting averages of .350 and .365 respectively.
New to the team are freshmen Grace Brown, Anna Hook and Ally Richied.
“[They] are a very talented trio of freshman that will contribute to a very strong varsity roster this year,” said coach Andrew Sage. “Gracie is a true utility player capable of playing second base, third base, outfield and catcher. She will be a strong asset. Anna Hook has a stick that is going to put pressure on our returns for playing time and will be a quality back up at several positions. Ally is a solid pitcher and exceptional athlete that can contribute in both the infield and outfield.”
Last year, the Panthers nabbed 15 wins out of 20 games, but Sage thinks the team will be even stronger this year.
“We have a strong foundation of seniors and juniors with a great core of sophomores,” Sage said. “They just have to put in the work to prove it.”
The Panthers baseball team has gloves oiled and bats ready for another season between the lines.
Coach Mike Olson has put together a strong baseball program for Bonney Lake year after year and the team is consistently near or at the top of the standings.
The Panthers have made an appearance for the past three out of the last four years in the state championship tournament.
Bonney Lake took second in 2014 and third in 2007.
Olson has always put a high premium on the fundamentals of the game. He is also one of the top pitching coaches in the high school ranks. His years pitching at the collegiate level gave him an understanding that the mound is more than throwing hard and hoping.
Bonney Lake will have a less experienced team for Olson with 10 seniors graduating from the 2016 team.
Bonney Lake is playing in a new league this season — the 3A Pierce County League. The teams the Panthers will face in league play are Bethel, Lakes, Lincoln, Mount Tahoma, Spanaway Lake, Stadium and Wilson.
The Panthers open the season on the road Monday against Auburn Mountainview, Tuesday against Kennedy Catholic on the road and at home 5 p.m. March 17 against Southridge.