There aren’t always clear favorites heading into each high-school sports season, as you well know.
But this spring, most people tend to agree that the early favorites in Class 4A and 3A softball are the defending champions, Walla Walla and Juanita.
Walla Walla is ranked No. 19 nationally by MaxPreps and No. 24 by ESPN.
Juanita hasn’t cracked any national rankings that I’ve seen, but features one of the state’s best pitchers in Allison Rhodes. I actually feel pretty good about all of the teams I’ve got ranked in 3A to start the season.
The hard part was wanting to move some of them up higher, but at whose expense? I thought I’d have Sedro-Woolley in the top five, but the Cubs wound up at No. 7. And it was a real struggle to decide on No. 10. I originally thought Bellevue would be in the rankings, but the Wolves have struggled a little out of the game (don’t be surprised to see them get hot, though).
So, I went with Mount Si, which has lost only to No. 3 Kamiakin of Kennewick. The 4-1 Wildcats have some quality victories. I also gave a lot of consideration to Holy Names, Peninsula and Prairie. Holy Names is an annual contender, but lost some key players from the team that went 0-2 at state and has had a soft schedule to date. The Cougars could jump in the top-10 at any time. Prairie is another program with a strong tradition and is knocking on the door once again. Peninsula got my attention with a victory over Bonney Lake, a team I expected to be in the rankings a week ago.
In 4A, it was easy to put Woodinville at No. 2. The Falcons, third in last year’s tournament, have all of the tools to make another run.
After that, it was tough to decide on the order of teams — and in some cases tough to decide who got in and who got left out. I went with Central Valley of Spokane at No. 3 and then Marysville-Pilchuck, which is off to a hot start on the heels of last year’s ride to the title game. Arlington gets the No. 5 spot with its lone loss coming against a very good Everett team.
The next five were a bit of a struggle for me. I think they’re all good teams, just not sure yet exactly how good. I really like three teams from the South Puget Sound League South Division — Emerald Ridge, Puyallup and Rogers. But I couldn’t justify putting all three in the top-10. Rogers wound up on the watch list, in part because the other two have played a little tougher schedule thus far (Puyallup’s win over a Central Kistap team that beat Bellarmine Prep kind of sold me, and Emerald Ridge has beaten Kentlake).
Rogers and ER are supposed to play Tuesday, and I’m sure I’ve just given the Rams plenty of added incentive — let’s hope the weather cooperates and the game gets in.
Before the season started, I’d heard Jefferson was going to be the team to beat in the SPSL North. But the Raiders have struggled defensively early on, losing both to Tahoma and Kentlake. But keep an eye on TJ. I wound up going with Tahoma in the top-10, even though the Bears lost their opener to Bothell, which is unbeaten.
Yes, these rankings can be. I’m keeping a close eye on Bothell, but the KingCo’s other representative in the 4A top-10 is Eastlake, which has lost only to Juanita.
Be sure to check back next Monday. I won’t be surprised to see some shuffling. It’s going to be an interesting season, for sure.
1. Walla Walla (2-0)
2. Woodinville (2-0)
3. Central Valley (Spokane Valley) (2-0)
4. Marysville-Pilchuck (5-0)
5. Arlington (4-1)
6. Emerald Ridge (Puyallup) (3-0)
7. Skyview (Vancouver) (2-1)
8. Tahoma (Maple Valley) (4-1)
9. Puyallup (4-0)
10. Eastlake (Sammamish) (3-1)
Others to watch — Battle Ground, Bellarmine Prep (Tacoma), Bothell, Central Kitsap (Silverdale), Gig Harbor, Inglemoor (Kenmore), Issaquah, Jefferson (Auburn), Kentlake, Mead (Spokane), Monroe, Olympia, Richland, Rogers (Puyallup), Snohomish, South Kitsap (Port Orchard), Stadium (Tacoma), Union (Vancouver), Wenatchee.
1. Juanita (Kirkland) (0-0)
2. Everett (6-0)
3. Kamiakin (Kennewick) (6-0)
4. Bainbridge (3-0)
5. Camas (4-0)
6. Wilson (Tacoma) (1-0)
7. Sedro-Wolley (3-0)
8. University (Spokane) (1-0)
9. Kelso (3-0)
10. Mount Si (Snoqualmie) (4-1)
Others to watch — Bellevue, Bishop Blanchet (Seattle), Bonney Lake, Capital (Olympia), Kennedy Catholic (Burien), Holy Names (Seattle), Lynnwood, Mount Spokane, Mountlake Terrace, Peninsula (Gig Harbor), Prairie (Brush Prairie), Shadle Park (Spokane), Shorecrest (Shoreline), Southridge (Kennewick), West Valley (Yakima).