In this week’s Triple Play, you’ll hear about life after Allison Rhodes at Juanita, how Holy Names has high hopes after a year of maturation and get a look at Cascade’s red-hot start to the season.
And I’ll link you to the latest national rankings as well.
First, though, I wanted to talk a bit about that showdown last Saturday between Woodinville and North Medford, Oregon. The two defending state champions were both ranked in the top-25 nationally with Woodinville as high as No. 9 and North Medford as high as No 13 (both by MaxPreps).
In a well-played game, North Medford wound up with a 3-2 victory in eight innings.
It was just the second career loss for senior pitcher Madi Schreyer and first since the 2011 state tournament. She scattered five hits and struck out 13. North Medford’s Maryssa Becker, who has signed with Louisville, also allowed five hits and finished with 14 Ks.
“Overall, it was a very well matched game and both batteries did a great job of hitting spots and throwing to different batters,” Woodinville coach Dani Weir said in an e-mail. “Both defenses were solid and provided great support for their pitchers. The hitters dueled for 8 tough innings as well but North Medford was able to execute a couple more plays than us this weekend. Despite the loss, it really was a great experience for all of us. They were a very classy bunch of players and coaches and I would jump at the opportunity to play them again.”
The Black Tornado was flawless in the field, while Woodinville committed just one error – but it was costly, factoring into North Medford’s first run in the top of the third. Woodinville tied it in the fourth as Tori Lettus singled to right, stole second, moved up on a grounder to the right side by Alyssa O’Farrell and scored on a double by Schreyer.
The international tiebreaker was invoked in the eighth (earlier than usual), and North Medford pushed two runs across, one on a squeeze bunt and the other on a double. Woodinville got one back when Alena Jones, who started on second, scored on a groundout by Emily Jackson after a sac bunt by Alex Nelson. But Becker ended the game with a strikeout.
Woodinville bounced back with a 7-1 victory over Ingelmoor Wednesday to improve to 8-1, 3-0 in KingCo 4A play. It was the first league loss of the season for Inglemoor (8-2, 3-1).
These Rebels have a cause without Rhodes
There’s no disputing what Allison Rhodes meant to the Juanita softball program.
The past two seasons, the left-handed pitcher piled up 38 victories against just four losses and keyed a pair of top-four finishes at the 3A state tournament – including a run to the title in 2011.
Rhodes is gone now, pitching at Notre Dame. But six starters return and the Rebels are anxious to prove they are still a team to contend with this season.
“There’s been a big shadow they’re trying to get out from under,” coach Kristian Dahl said. “Allison was the main focus, but they want to show it wasn’t just her, it’s the entire team. They want to prove they can continue to be successful. They don’t know anything else. They want to continue to win. It’s a big focus to keep things going.”
Juanita started the season 0-3 with close losses to a trio of 4A teams and was just 1-4 after dropping the league opener to Mount Si by a run, 8-7 in a rain-shortened game. The Rebels scored four times in the top of the fifth to take a 7-3 lead, but Mount Si rallied with five in the bottom half.
Since then, though, they have won five straight to improve to 6-4, 4-1 in league play. Weather permitting, Juanita faces a key game today against Lake Washington (6-1, 4-0), which should be a 2A contender during the post-season and has a shot to end Juanita’s four-year run atop the league standings.
Next week looms large, too, with Interlake (6-3, 3-2) on top Monday and the rematch Tuesday against Mount Si (7-3, 4-1).
The bulk of the pitching duties are being handled by junior Milly Kawabata, who was 4-0 last season.
“Right now, she has been very consistent for us,” said Dahl, in his ninth year with the program and sixth as head coach. “I’ve been really proud of her progress from last year to this year.”
Kawabata is 3-2, getting tagged for a pair of one-run losses. Freshman Lisa Nelson tossed a five-inning no hitter against Sammamish Tuesday, striking out eight and walking just one.
“It was good to see her throw really well,” Dahl said.
Sophomores Madi Hedlund and Amiee Richardson are also seeing time in the circle.
Offensively, the Rebels haven’t missed a beat, batting .375 as a team with 19 doubles. Senior Molly Steck, who moved from second base to third this season, leads the way with a .464 average and team-best 11 RBI. She also has four stolen bases.
Senior shortstop Dani Faist is close behind at .455 and has the best slugging percentage (.636), thanks to three doubles and a home run. She has seven RBI, 10 runs scored and five stolen bases.
First baseman Katie Kent, another senior returner, is next in line at .421 (with eight RBI). while sophomore Madison Hedlund and senior Abbie Oswald are both hitting .415. Hedlund has driven in nine runs and Oswald five, with 10 runs scored. Junior Morgan Fieueroa, who returns in centerfield, has a team-high seven stolen bases.
Oswald, used primarily as a DP last season and normally an outfielder, is filling a big void at catcher after Aliah Swere graduated.
“She’s been phenomenal behind the plate,” Dahl said.
Oswald has Swere’s backup the past two seasons, but will play outfield at Western Oregon.
“I would love to get her in the outfield, but right now we need her leadership and experience behind the plate,” Dahl said.
The coach has also been impressed with the efforts of Faist.
“She’s one of the best lead-off hitters we’ve ever had,” he said, noting she went 5-for-5 with four RBI in the one-run win over Liberty. “I’m really impressed with what she’s doing so far.”
A year older, Holy Names can raise hopes again
The expectations are high again at Holy Names, which is off to an 8-0 start.
The Cougars had a three-year run at state end last season, when their roster included no seniors. But coach Jerry Milsap, in his 18th year, said he considered it a successful campaign, considering the team’s youth. They nearly won a fifth straight Metro title, losing 5-4 to Bainbridge in eight innings after taking a 4-2 lead into the bottom of the seventh.
At the Sea-King 3A District tournament, it was Bainbridge again blocking the way to state after the Spartans were upset by Mount Si and came through the loser’s bracket to advance, eliminating Holy Names.
“Our main focus last year wasn’t to get to state,” Milsap said. “It was just to get some maturity and handling tough situations.
“This year our goals are much bigger. Last year did teach us a lot about sticking to our goals and trying to preserver over some adversity.”
Much of that adversity involved injuries to pitchers Sylvie Thomas (shoulder) and Kaitlin Cappetto (wrist), who are now healthy.
“We look for a lot from them,” Milsap said.
Thomas, now one of five senior starters, has been especially impressive thus far. She is 5-0 and given up just two runs, one earned.
“She seems a little faster and she’s hitting her spots,” Milsap said. “She and her catcher (junior Claire McCarthy) are really in tune with each other and really working well together.”
Overall, the Cougars have allowed just 10 runs. Offensively, they have scored 10 or more in each game. Milsap said he is behind on getting the team stats together, but noted that junior second baseman Sam Carlson “is just blasting the ball.” She has three home runs already.
Sophomore Casey Pelz drilled a walk-off, three-run homer to cap a nine-run sixth inning against Ballard in an 11-0 win at Husky Stadium last month.
Once again, it appears that the Cougars’ biggest competition in the Metro League will come from rival Bainbridge – which beat them in the 2009 state championship game.
“I think it will be between us and them again,” Milsap said.
Holy Names is scheduled to play at Bainbidge on April 17, then host the Spartans on April 19.
Milsap said he scheduled a couple of tough nonleague games late in the season to help prepare the Cougars for the post-season. They travel to Walla Walla on April 27 for games against the Blue Devils (second in the 4A state tournament last year) and McLoughlin High School from Milton-Freewater, Oregon.
Cascade approach pays big dividends at the plate
One game at a time?
Nah. At Cascade, it’s one pitch at a time – and the approach at the plate is working wonders.
The Bruins have bolted to a 9-0 start (4-0 in the WesCo South Division) while outscoring opponents 80-8. They are batting .322 as a team with nine home runs, six triples and 20 doubles.
“The girls’ approach at the plate has been great,” coach Kelly Ross said. “They are really focuses on the mental side of the game. They’ve done a great job of taking it one pitch at a time and it’s made a big difference. And it hasn’t just been one girl. Every single girl in the lineup and on our roster has come in and contributed offensively and defensively. It’s been fun to watch.”
Ross took over the program this season from Wendy Close after a one-year stint at Mariner. But she’s no stranger at Cascade. She was a volunteer assistant with Close for eight seasons and had two daughters play there (Brandi and Morgan Klemm). And many of the players on this year’s team were part of the squad that won the division title last season.
“The core group has definitely been here the last few years,” Ross said. “It’s a strong group of girls and they’re great athletes. I was fortunate walking in.”
Junior pitcher Makinlee Sellevold has been stellar, averaging nearly 10 strikeouts per game while going 7-0. She tossed a two-hit shutout against Jackson Tuesday, handing the Timberwolves their first league loss of the season.
“She’s a smart pitcher and she’s got really good speed,” Ross said. “She also has a really good mentor in my assistant coach, who does a great job of calling pitches.”
That would be Lauren Reid, who coaches with Ross at Eisenhower Middle School and was also with her at Mariner last season. She pitched at Jackson, graduating in 2007, and went on to play at Bellevue College.
Sellevold helped her cause against the T-Wolves by going 3-for-3 with a double and two runs scored. Junior Taryn Salter, who moved from outfield to shortstop this season, was 2-for-2 with a double and solo home run, her second of the season.
Sellevold has a team-best .588 batting average with six doubles and four home runs. She is followed by Sarah DePietro (.444), Sage Andersen (.367), Aubrey Peterson (.333) and Salter (.333).
The Bruins had their sights set on getting to state last season for only the second time in school history (they qualified in 2009). But they were upset in the first round of the Northwest District tournament by Monroe, 7-0. After staying alive in the loser’s bracket with wins over Jackson and Arlington (the other division winner), they were eliminated by Snohomish.
The returning players haven’t forgotten.
“They all had high hopes last year and gave it a good run,” Ross said. “Of course they were disappointed, and they’ve come out and set that (getting to state) as one of their goals for this year.”
The coach said she has been impressed with the team on and off the field. Alex Deaver lost her father a few months again after a long battle with colon cancer and the team rallied behind her to participate in a 5K run on Mercer Island March 24 to benefit colon cancer research.
“This is only one example of the caring, compassionate ways of our team,” Ross wrote in an e-mail, noting her father passed away last June. “They value softball, but above all, they respect and value each other.”
Woodinville dropped from No. 9 to No. 19 in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 this week. North Medford, which earlier had lost to Glencoe before beating Woodinville, went from 13th to 15th. You can find the complete rankings here. Note that Connell, the two-time defending 1A state champion, has moved in at No. 25 this week.
For the National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll, where Woodinville dipped from No. 10 to No. 12 (and North Medford dropped out after sitting at No. 22), go here.
I still have not seen any ESPN rankings, but will keep looking.