Wildcats baseball returns to pack

The Mount Si baseball program is coming off one of its best seasons ever. The Wildcats, coached by Gary McGregor, who is returning for his seventh season as head coach, went 16-5 overall and spent several weeks atop the state high-school baseball standings before seeing their season come to a sudden end at the Kingco tournament.

The defending Kingco regular season champions return with only three starters from last year's squad, which made history by clinching that title for the first time ever. The starters are led by senior Remo Castagno. Castagno, who played a key reserve role on the Mount Si boys' basketball squad this season in its drive to state, is this year's team captain and will play shortstop. Fellow senior Erik Alexander is expected to pitch and play center field, while junior Ian Atkinson will fill the utility role this season. McGregor expects to start Atkinson in a position other than pitcher or catcher and, after Castagno becomes eligible following the basketball season, at shortstop as well.

Among the newcomers are senior pitchers Dane Fenton and Chase Korsmo. The future, though, looks very bright. "I was telling the kids that, I don't remember what year it was, when [Adam] Dentz and [Craig] Weber and [Brandon] Sales were freshmen, that class - I've been here 12 years and that was the best freshman class we've had - but I think potentially this freshman class has seven or eight kids that have that capability," said McGregor, who added that 23 freshmen turned out in a initial turnout of 57 kids. None, however, made varsity.

The $75 athletic fee at Mount Si did not affect the team's turnout. "We've had, since '95, we've only had two higher numbers; one was 60 and one was 59, so numbers haven't gone down at all. They're up from last year," McGregor said.

McGregor is looking for his team to be in the mix. "We should be competitive. I don't see us in the top two spots. I don't think we're going to get that bye this year. We need a lot of things to fall into place. We need kids to step up that haven't performed at this level before," said the coach.

McGregor expects the usual suspects - Newport, Issaquah and Bellevue - to be on top this season in Kingco 3A.

One of the main facets behind last season's success was team unity. "Last year we were such a close-knit group. We played baseball together, but we were best friends, too. We hung out on the weekends and stuff, so I think the bonding on the bus helped out a lot and when it came game time, we just trusted each other and that's what made us good, I think," said Atkinson, who added this year's team should be pretty unified as well. "We're all good friends, so we should have no problem with that," he said.

The team's schedule promises to be a good one.

The Wildcats opened their new home field on the Mount Si campus on March 13 against former Seamount League rival Highline. The Wildcats beat the Pirates last season at Highline High School. Mount Si will log a lot of miles on their nonleague road trips. The team is scheduled to make a trip to Yakima on March 18 for games against West Valley of Yakima and Bellingham, then, just three days later on March 21, go back across the pass for a game against Ellensburg. On April 1, the team will head down to Tumwater to face Black Hills.

The league schedule opens up at home on March 28 against Sammamish and closes at home May 3 against Bellevue. Until March 30, home games will begin at 3:30 p.m. After that, they will start at 4 p.m.

After spending all of last season on the road, having a home field is nice for Atkinson. "It's nice to practice in your own backyard," he said. Atkinson expects a state run if the team gets it done. "I think we can go all the way to state if everybody just plays hard everyday, shows enthusiasm and works hard," he said.

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