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March 30, 2009 at 6:56 PM

State softball rankings — week 1

Who will win the Class 4A and 3A state softball titles two months from now?

After spending hours on the phone with coaches across the state, I don’t think there are any clear favorites. A year ago, we had some of the most dominant senior pitchers we’ve seen in Washington for years. As a collective group, they were quite impressive — Sam Skillingstad at Shadle Park of Spokane, Karli Merlich at Kennedy, Cory Mattson at Everett, Jordan Birch at Monroe, Felecia Harris at Kentlake.

And while there are some very good hurlers this season, the dropoff is much bigger. But most coaches preach that defense wins championships, and teams have got to hit a little, too. It will be interesting to see how everything sorts out week after week.

There appear to be some very good teams in both Class 4A and 3A, but not a lot to separate them in many ways, as far as I can see. There are several contenders and possibly even a few pretenders.

I’m giving the nod in Class 4A to Emerald Ridge of Puyallup. The Jaguars lost just three players from last year’s team and have a quartet of seniors who have started since their freshman year. But watch out for Stanwood and Auburn Riverside, which likely will go as far as ace Amanda Fitzsimmons can take them. And whoever makes it here from the Greater Spokane League will have a shot, too — and right now it might be a coin-flip beteween Mead, University and Central Valley.

In 3A, I couldn’t resist putting Bonney Lake at the top. The Panthers return all but one starter from the team that placed fourth last year, and they have one of the better pitchers around in senior Caitlin Colvin. But this could be Bainbridge’s year, and never count out Shadle Park of Spokane, even without Skillingstad. Kennedy, the defending champion, could make another run and Everett is still mighty tough.

Don’t be surprised to see plenty of movement in the rankings over the next few weeks. I certainly won’t.

Remember, these records are through last Saturday and are as best as I could gather. I hope to post the rankings earlier on future Mondays.

Class 4A

1, Emerald Ridge (Puyallup) 4-0

2, Stanwood 5-0

3, Auburn Riverside 4-0

4, Mead (Spokane) 4-1

5, Inglemoor 4-0

6, Jefferson (Federal Way) 5-1

7, University (Spokane) 4-1

8, Mountain View (Vancouver) 4-0

9, Rogers (Puyallup) 3-2

10, Eastmont (East Wenatchee) 5-0

Others (alphabetically) — Central Kitsap (Silverdale), Central Valley (Spokane), Jackson, Kentlake, Kentwood (Covington), Lake Washington, Marysville-Pilchuck, Mountlake Terrace, Puyallup, Redmond, Southridge (Kennewick), Stadium (Tacoma), Walla Walla, Wilson (Tacoma), Woodinville.

Class 3A

1, Bonney Lake 3-0

2, Bainbridge 5-0

3, Shadle Park (Spokane) 3-1

4, Union (Vancouver) 2-1

5, Holy Names 4-0

6, Juanita (Kirkland) 4-1

7, Everett 5-1

8, Kennedy (Burien) 4-0

9, Sedro-Woolley 4-2

10, Lynnwood 2-1

Others (alphabetically) — Auburn Mountainview, Capital (Olympia), Liberty (Renton), Mount Rainier (Des Moines), Prairie (Brush Prairies), Sammamish.

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