by Tom Helm
The spring equals optimism and the Dolphin baseball team has plenty of it.
After a frustrating and demoralizing 2006 campaign, where the Dolphins compiled a 2-20 league, 4-32 overall record and finished last in the North division, Shoreline Baseball Head Coach Steve Seki has been chomping at the bit to get back to work on the diamond.
“We’re excited to start the season and get the bad taste out of our mouths,” Seki said. “We started fall league back in August, it’s been a long, hard road. We’ve worked hard.”
Without stating the obvious, the Dolphins are looking to win several more games this year, and despite winning only four games last season, they believe the playoffs is a realistic goal.
“Our goal is to compete and make the playoffs. We have enough returnees,” Seki said. “Last year our record didn’t look good, but we lost 14 games by one or two runs. Now we have a year under our belt. We just need that one big hit, or that one big out to get over the hump.”
Seki identified Sophomore right-handed pitchers Justin Weckhorst, the team’s projected number one starter, and Derek Cherin to continue last year's success on the mound and to anchor the Dolphins starting pitching staff.
Both Cherin (2-4, 2.09 ERA) and Weckhorst (0-6, 2.63 ERA) were victims of poor run support, as evident with their losing records, and low ERAs.
“Weckhorst threw a lot of well-pitched games last season," Seki said. "But he had little run support.”
“I don’t hit in the games, the only thing I can do is focus on what I’m doing on the mound,” Weckhorst said. “Those losses are tough to take, but we’re going to turn it around and get on the other side of the hill. I think there’s going to be big improvement this year, I see good things. Overall we’re going to have more success and we want to make a statement by making the playoffs.”
For the Dolphins to get over that hill, the offense has to come around this year with some run production, and the pressure is high.
Seki is counting on Sophomore third baseman Tyler Fisk, who will be batting third in the line up, and Sophomore right fielder Tyler Starkel, who will follow Fisk batting in the cleanup spot. Fisk last season posted a .250 batting average with 2 home runs and 16 runs batted in. Starkel batted .240 but had only 54 at-bats last season.
“We have to put up more runs, make contact, and be solid in scoring runs,” Fisk said. “I like that there is pressure on me to set the tone. I like the role of being a leader, you can get on people when they’re slacking, and that puts the pressure on you to come out and be ready to play.”
Seki knows that making the playoffs will be challenging, simply because of the competition within the North Division. The top team in each division receives and automatic postseason birth, with the second and third place team competing for the last play-off spot.
“Everett, Skagit, Bellevue, Edmonds, and Douglas are going to be there,” Seki said. “The North is probably the toughest division in the NWAACC”
Shoreline starts the regular season against the Pierce Raiders on March 4 at Lower Woodland Park. Hopefully for the Dolphins, it will be the start of a successful season and a drastic turn around from last season.
“This year, there is a lot more team chemistry,” Fisk said. “Fall ball proved to me that we can run with the best.”