We are about a month away from the start of the softball playoffs in most leagues, and I can’t wait to get there.
That’s when I’ll finally be able to get out and actually see a few games and some of these teams and players I’m featuring in this blog notebook. And hopefully we’ll have some warm, sunny days by then, too!
In this week’s Triple Play, I’m going to tell you about a 2A Lake Washington team that is more than holding its own against its 3A competition in KingCo. You’ll also hear how young Beamer is bent on making school history and about Meadowdale’s plans to take the next step.
Plus, I’ll link you to the latest national rankings.
LW’s success is no surprise this season
Lake Washington was the surprise team of the Sea-King District 3A tournament last season.
After finishing third in the KingCo 3A/2A standings, the Kangaroos reached the district championship game before losing to Juanita, the 2011 state champion. They went 0-2 at state, but were in both contests.
So, it’s not jaw-dropping to see LW leading the league right now at 6-0, 8-1 overall – although Mount Si was favored coming in with the bulk of last year’s team back. And Juanita is expected to be in the mix, even without ace pitcher Allison Rhodes (now at Notre Dame).
Of course, the Kangs have yet to play either team, since both contests have been rained out. They are scheduled to try again against Mount Si on Monday and Juanita a week from Friday (April 19). Mount Si (5-1, 8-3) is responsible for Juanita’s two league losses (8-7 and 9-5) and has dropped just one conference game, 10-4 to Interlake back on March 21.
And remember – not matter what happens against those squads during the regular season, LW likely will be considered a state contender, especially considering they are a 2A school this year. The team’s lone loss has been to 4A Redmond, 16-11.
Traci Tawney, in her first year as head coach after one season as an assistant, admits the players have high hopes. Just getting back to state won’t be enough.
“They want to win a game at state this season,” she said. “That’s the big goal.”
Tawney, a 1999 Mount Si graduate who went on to play at Washington and also spent three seasons as an assistant at her alma mater, said she wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from her team coming in with only four returning starters.
“But whether we started good or bad, I knew we could get better and we’ve done that,” she said.
Lake Washington included a freshman class for the first time this school year, and Tawney said she heard rumors about how good some of these young players might be.
“But you never know what you’re actually going to get,” she said. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the raw athletic talent in these ladies.”
Sophomore Maddie Brown has stepped in as the No. 1 pitcher following the graduation of Audrey Sundene, who handled most of the duties last season. Excluding the Redmond game, she is 7-0 with a 3.17 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 42 innings. Just 15 years old, she is coming off a hip surgery from last year.
“She’s got some power,” Tawney said. “She’s not overpowering at this poing, but she throws pretty hard and works all the zones. She’s got give pitches. I will be interesting to see her development as she learns when she can go right after hitters and when she can’t.”
Brown is also batting .320 with 12 RBI. But LW’s biggest bats belongs to senior shortstop Taylor Ferleman and junior second baseman Cori Meyers, both returning starters.
Ferleman is hitting .552 with 16 RBI and 19 runs scored. With four doubles, three triples and a home run, she has a team-best slugging percentage of 1.000. Meyers, the leadoff hitter, has a .567 batting average with nine RBI and 18 runs scored.
As a team, the Kangs are hitting .431 and they put pressure on opposing defenses with their speed.
“We put the ball in play and make things happen,” Tawney said.
Beamer boldly aims for more unchartered waters
There are no softball banners in the Beamer gymnasium.
No league or district titles. No state appearances.
But that didn’t deter Brian Hering when it came to making some predictions about this year’s team. When asked to come up with preseason top-10 in Class 4A, he included the young Titans, which have just one senior on the roster.
“I totally believe we are a state-bound team,” the second-year coach said. “But honestly, I think next year is going to be our year.”
Hering predicts a top-three finish in the tough SPSL South Division, which includes three proven programs in Emerald Ridge, Rogers and Puyallup. The Titans made history last season with their first-ever win over Rogers and also got a rare victory over Puyallup.
“It was a confidence-booster for our girls, like ‘Hey, we’re in unchartered waters here,’” Hering said. “We’re hoping to build a program that’s going to last.”
They got Puyallup again last month, 3-2, and nearly had Rogers Tuesday, but let a one-run lead slip away in the bottom of the seventh as the Rams put two on and took advantage of a single and an error.
“It was a crazy game,” Hering said, “the longest game I have ever been a part of, including T-ball.”
It was the first league loss of the season for the Titans (6-1, 8-2), who face unbeaten Emerald Ridge Friday.
Beamer’s other loss came against nationally ranked Woodinville, the defending 4A state champion, just 3-2 in the third outing of the season. It was actually anoter confidence-booster for the team. The game was tied at 1-1 before sophomore pitcher Maddy Rogers gave up a two-run homer to opposing pitcher Madi Schreyer, a senior headed to Stanford.
“We should have beaten them, in our eyes,” Hering said. “Maddy went toe-to-toe with Schreyer. We looked like the Bad News Bears stepping on the field against the Yankees. But we went into the game wanting to see where we were at. The kids knew we were going to be decent, but they didn’t know how good we were going to be.”
He said the girls were initially intimidated watching Woodinville’s impressive warm-up, but settled in as the game stayed close.
“They kind of woke up and saw, ‘Hey, I can play at this level. We are a good team and we can compete with these guys,’” Hering said.
Rogers got her feet wet with the team last year, sharing time with then-senior Emma Blauser early on and then taking over most of the pitching duties later in the season.
“She’s getting stronger and stronger as she gets older,” Hering said. “She’s looking to be a D-1 type of a player.”
The Titans fell one victory short of the state tournament last season, getting eliminated by Kentlake at the West Central District tourney, 6-0.
Hering said the focus this spring has been on amping up the offense and taking advantage of the team’s spead.
“Our goal has been to produce more runs,” he said. “Last year, we didn’t get the key hit. This year, our plan was to come in and not sorry so much about our defense, just let that take care of itself and rely on Maddy, but be more aggressive on on the bases and get those key hits with two outs or with runners in scoring position. And we’re doing a pretty good job. We’re putting a lot of pressure on team with our speed. We’re taking the extra base”
Analee Scott led the SPSL South in stolen bases as a freshman last year with 24 (out of 25 attempts) and was fourth in batting at .525. Catcher Halle Colson, this year’s lone senior, was sixth at .483.
Through seven league games, the Titans have swiped 35 bases in 43 attempts.
Simplified approach works marvelous for Meadowdale
Dennis Hopkins likes to keep things simple.
So, don’t ask him about any statistical leaders on his Meadowdale team.
“We don’t keep stats,” the fourth-year coach said. “We just play one inning and one pitch at a time. We keep a book (scorebook), but we’re only worried about what the next pitch is and what we’re going to do with it. We let the rest take care of itself. It worked for us last year, so if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
The Mavericks made their way to the 3A state tournament last season and got to the quarterfinals before losing to eventual-champion Kamiakin of Kennewick. They were then eliminated by Wilson of Tacoma, which went on to place third.
Eight starters are back from that squad, including senior pitcher Alyssa Reuble.
“She’s a top-caliber pitcher,” Hopkins said. “She has a full ride to Seattle University to pitch. She’s got all the tools and she uses them well.”
Reuble has yet to hit her full stride due to a recent bout of bronchitis, which affected her velocity, but Hopkins said she is starting to return to top form. He also said she is the team’s top hitter, estimating her average at around .520.
Reuble is the lone senior on this young team , which likely could be unbeaten if Hopkins hadn’t pulled her in a nonleague game against 4A Cascade to keep her fresh for the WesCo 3A contest with Shorecrest. The Mavs led 7-0 after four innings and wound up losing 9-7. But they beat Shorecrest the next day, 7-1 – the Scotts’ lone league loss thus far.
Cascade, meanwhile, remains unbeaten.
Meadowdale is 4-0 in the WesCo 3A South, 8-1 overall – and they’re still young, with four juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen on the squad.
It’s a strong hitting lineup, especially at the top. Ashley Brooke, a junior first baseman, hit a three-run, walk-off home run against Glacier Peak last week as Reuble tossed a one-hitter.
Hopkins said his players have high expectations this season.
“They got a taste of state last year and the want to get back there,” he said. “They’re doing everything they can to put themselves in position to make a run at it.”
The latest national rankings
In this week’s MaxPreps Xcellent 25, Woodinville inches up a spot to No. 18, while Connell holds at No. 25. Find the complete rankings here.
Woodinville is No. 9 in the NFCA poll, which you’ll find here.
Again, still no ESPN rankings that I’ve been able to find.
published April 11, 2013, was corrected April 15, 2013. A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that Beamer beat Puyallup last for the first time in school history. The Titans earned victories over Puyallup in 2005 and ’06.