Community Sports

Sports Beat | Spring sports preview

Posted on March 8th, 2024 By:

The spring sports season is upon us and that means the local high schools will be fielding talented teams in baseball, fastpitch, boys soccer, girls tennis, golf, lacrosse and track and field.

Local teams have the potential to win South Sound Conference titles in almost all of those sports. In this spring preview we will look at the talented teams and individuals that should stand out.


We start with the defending state fastpitch champions from Peninsula High.

The team returns plenty of offensive power. Malia Coit blasted 10 home runs in the 2023 Class 3A playoffs and swatted a line drive over the fence in the state championship victory. Other powerful hitters include Ava Miranda, Mira Sonnen, Kallee Waage, Sophia Hooper and a stocked shelf of talented players from the successful JV team.

Malia Coit returns to lead the defending state champion Peninsula fastpitch team. Photo by Bryce Carithers

Pitching is the question for the Seahawks. They lost the program’s best pitcher in Alli Kimball, who pitched all 28 innings in four state tournament games. Backing her up were the talented Estabrook sisters, who also graduated. If coach Mike Paul has another ace up his sleeve, expect the Seahawks to challenge for another SSC title because they have plenty of hitters that can make the basepaths look like a merry-go-round this spring.

It’s just the opposite for the Gig Harbor Tides. They lost the services of some big hitters, such as shortstop and league MVP Riley Peschek, from last year.

But they return first-team all-conference center fielder Daniel Biehl, who plays defense like she was born with a glove on her hand. Also returning are 2023 all-league picks Paige Harthorn and Emma Vandervort.


The Gig Harbor baseball team is loaded with individual talent such as Josh Dunham, Ryland Heckman, Cooper McCutcheon, Cole Krilich, Wesley Bonnici and Peninsula transfer Justin Grande. Zach Smith turned enough heads to be the lone freshman on a very deep team that is a serious threat to win the South Sound Conference.

It seems like the Tides have been waiting on this talented collection of players for awhile now as many have talked about this group’s potential for the last couple years. They have guys who can hit the cover off the ball and field with the top teams in the state.

The question may be the pitching staff and if the Tides have enough arms to get consistent outs. But with this offense, the pitchers should at least have a four to five run cushion to work with in many games.

The Peninsula baseball team has a ton of talent as well but will have to absorb the loss of shortstop Payton Knowles and head coach Mike Johnson, who accepted an assistant coaching job at the University of Puget Sound. He was replaced by assistant coach Matt Thomas, who has some fine players returning in second baseman Isaac Schultz-Tait, third baseman Aden Deschenes and the speedy Hayden Bundy.

The Seahawks will also be looking for some quality pitching to join Deschenes. Former first team All-SSC pitcher Gavin Sheets traded in his glove for a nine iron and plays golf for the Seahawks team this spring.

The Gig Harbor baseball team could contend for a South Sound Conference championship this spring. Photo courtesy Gig Harbor baseball


Speaking of golf, Gig Harbor is loaded with exceptional players.

The Tides boys team finished fourth at the Class 3A state championships last season and return almost all their players. The top golfer last year for the Tides was Chet West, who contended for the individual title after posting a 1-under 71 on day one, good for second place. West barely missed four putts on day two to fall out of contention.

West, a senior, is an intense and crafty left hander who is deadly with his approach shots and putting stroke. He will get serious competition from sophomore Theo Snyder, who is loooong off the tee and has been tearing up national competitions this summer. Snyder played at Pebble Beach this summer and had five birdies in a pro-am competition. Either player has a legitimate chance at winning the 3A individual title. They combine for a one-two punch that South Sound Conference rivals won’t be able to match.

Returning players Rylan Coovert, Davis Dansey and Liam Dalbec should compete for the third spot.

The Gig Harbor girls golf team finished fourth at state last year. Photo courtesy Gig Harbor golf

The Gig Harbor girls team has a ton of returning talent as well. They placed fourth at state last year and return much of their team, including ace Carly Ikei. She laid down a 79 and a 81 at state last year and is an excellent ball striker.

Her teammates include talented seniors Sarah Ehler and Ella Gardner along with younger golfers Sofia Skogen, Laila Douglas and Hailey Gray. Look for the Tides girls team to contend for a state title.

The Peninsula girls team graduated Hallee Graf, who finished seventh at state. But head coach Kristi Whitcher feels her team should compete with some talented newcomers. The boys team returns All-SSC pick Luke Lipsey, who is long off the tee and smooth around the greens. Sheets is a good athlete who should also contend for a varsity spot.

Track and field

Among the top local track athletes this is Gig Harbor’s Ben Stevens, who won the most outstanding performer award at the South Sound Conference championships in spring 2023.

Stevens won the 100 and 200 meter events at the conference meet and looks to be contender for a title this spring as well. Blessed with bowling balls for calves, Stevens also will anchor many relay teams.

The Tides have some standouts in the field events as well. Reece Jennings threw the javelin 162 feet last year, Tyler Harrington pole-vaulted 11 feet, six inches and Christian Pugmire threw the discus 134 feet to finish fifth in the SSC. The Tides girls trio of distance runners should be fantastic with Taylor Sletner, Lejla Carlsson and Alex Ferrier. District champion Johnathan Miles will lead the boys team.

Elektra Higgins of Peninsula during a cross country meet last fall.

Peninsula features Elektra Higgins, who finished third at state cross country in the fall and has already been spotted passing cars going up Peacock Hill this winter. Distance specialist Lola Sweet gives the Seahawks a 1-2 punch.

Seahawks high jumper Emma Young finished second at state last year. By the looks of her vertical leap on the volleyball court this fall, she has gotten even better. She will have competition from teammate Anne Shipp, who finished fifth at state last year.

The Peninsula sprinters are led by two-sport stars Nora Sutherland (soccer) and Grace Richardson (basketball).

South Sound Conference volleyball MVP Lydia Ward of Gig Harbor is throwing the javelin again this spring after finishing third at state last year.


Both local soccer teams lost their best players from last spring’s teams in Derrick Johnson (Gig Harbor) and Sam Sutherland (Peninsula). Both teams appear to have reloaded, though.

Four all-conference Tides graduated last spring from a great team. Gig Harbor started 2023 19-0 and won a district title before being upset in the first round of the state tournament.

Top returners for the Tides should be Tyler Dull, Caleb Gilbert and sophomore Jack Learned. The top returner for the Seahawks is Jackson Ray.


Gig Harbor tennis coach Lorrie Wood needs to replace her top two singles players from last year, but all she does is win conference championships.

The Peninsula tennis team has a potential challenger to the SSC throne in sophomore McKenna Baurichter. As a freshman, Baurichter showed a consistent serve and a lot of pace on her forehands in earning first-team All-SSC honors.


The Seahawk boys lacrosse team has been the strongest local team for a couple years and they will be led by senior scoring machine Robby Akulschin and the rugged Elliot Gilliam. The RipTides girls team, composed of students from Gig Harbor and Peninsula, was heavily led by seniors and have a lot of open spots to fill going forward.

Lacrosse is a club sport but participation numbers have continued to rise in this fast moving and fun to watch sport that combines elements from hockey, basketball, soccer and even a little football with its physical play near the goals.