If I could have two wishes as the first state softball rankings for 2011 go up, they would be better weather and expansion of the top-10 to the top-12 (at the least).
Even though I spoke with dozen of coaches last week, it was hard to get a real feel for just what to expect this season in part because of so many early rainouts.
I feel pretty good about the 10 teams on each of the 4A and 3A lists. But I feel bad about leaving out teams that I believe could just as easily be in there.
Let me start with the two teams that starting at No. 1 — Woodinville in 4A and Sedro-Woolley in 3A.
Woodinville gets the nod over a Walla Walla team that returns both pitchers from last year’s 29-2 team, including the reigning Gatorade Player of the Year — Hope Klicker, who has signed with the College of Charlston. It was a tough choice (and Richland was in that mix, too), but I like this Woodinville squad that has a sour taste in its mouth left from last season, when back-to-back playoff losses cost them a trip to state.
Sedro-Woolley is the defending 3A champion and I couldn’t find enough reasons not to start the Cubs on top again. For a while, I toyed with the idea of sticking Everett up there, but then the Seagulls slipped up against Meadowdale last Friday. To me, that was enough to cost them that much consideration at this point, and also enough to get Meadowdale some recognition.
Both start in the top-10. Meadowdale coach Dennis Hopkins said his players still have the added motivation of playing for former teammate Ashley Aven, who died of cancer last year.
“They want to do it for her,” he said. “They want to still win for Ashley.”
And I couldn’t put together a 3A top-10 without Kelso, which dropped down this school year after winning back-to-back 4A championships (Heritage, the surprising 4A runnerup, starts at No. 6 in 4A).
If I could go 12-deep in 3A, I’d add Bellevue and Bonney Lake. I think both are going to have great seasons and I expect them to crack the rankings before long — along with Kaimiakin of Kennewick.
In 4A, I’d pick South Kitsap and Jackson. Jackson lost 7-3 last week to Arlington (another team to keep a close eye on). SK has yet to play and is a co-favorite in the Narrows League with Stadium (which lost Saturday to Kentwood).
But, top-10s they are, so have a look and let me know what you think:
1. Woodinville (1-0)
2. Walla Walla (0-0)
3. Richland (2-0)
4. Tahoma (Maple Valley) (1-0)
5. Marysville-Pilchuck (1-0)
6. Heritage (Vancouver) (0-0)
7. Puyallup (1-0)
8. Union (Vancouver) (0-0)
9. Kentlake (1-0)
10. Central Valley (Spokane) (0-0)
Others to watch – Arlington, Auburn, Auburn Riverside, Cascade (Everett), Central Kitsap (Silverdale), Emerald Ridge (Puyallup), Inglemoor (Kenmore), Jackson (Mill Creek), Mead (Spokane) Mount Rainier (Des Moines), Redmond, Rogers (Puyallup), Skyview (Vancouver), South Kitsap (Port Orchard), Stadium (Tacoma), Stanwood.
1. Sedro-Woolley (1-0)
2. Southridge (Kennewick) (2-0)
3. Kelso (0-0)
4. Bainbridge (0-0)
5. University (Spokane) (1-1)
6. Prairie (Vancouver) (1-0)
7. Meadowdale (Lynnwood) (3-0)
8. Everett (3-1)
9. Juanita (Kirkland) (3-0)
10. Holy Names (1-0)
Others to watch – Bellevue, Bonney Lake, Camas, Highline (Burien), Hudson’s Bay, Kamiakin (Kennewick), Kennedy Catholic (Burien), Lynnwood, Peninsula, West Seattle, Wilson (Tacoma).