The 2014 softball season is well underway, so it’s time for the first volume of Triple Play, which will be a weekly notebook devoted to the sport.
Each edition will feature three subjects of some sort – teams, players, leagues, etc.
Today, we’ll start with a brief look back on the 2013 season and some of the hits and misses.
Then I’ll catch you up with the lone defending state team champion from our area – Arlington, which captured the 4A title last May.
And, finally, I’ll touch base with Holy Names, which looks for some same old success under a new head coach.
Remember those wild 2013 Class 4A, 3A state finishes?
As much as I love having the 3A tourney down at the RAC in Lacey, I miss having the 3A and 4A tournaments together – like they used to be at the South End Recreation Area (SERA) in Tacoma.
It was great to be able to follow local teams in both events.
But the 4A tourney found a new home at the Merkel Sports Complex in Spokane, and overall these are better venues and therefore better for the players and fans. The Times has gotten quality 4A coverage from freelance reporters, and there’s always Twitter, right?
It’s just not the same as being there, obviously.
At any rate, I think the best way to revisit the tourneys is by linking you to my final Triple Play notebook for 2013. I went back and reread it the other day and had a lot of, “Oh, yeah, that’s right!” moments and maybe you will, too. You can find it here. And links to the tournament stories as well as brackets are included there, too.
I did not compile state rankings last year (a staff decision based on the amount of time that takes), and I will not be doing them again this spring.
But if there had been rankings last season, Woodinville no doubt would have been No. 1 in 4A all season. The Falcons, who won the 2012 title, were nationally ranked in two polls. But they didn’t win another state title. Instead, it was Arlington riding the arm and bat of Ronnie Ladines all of the way to the top.
Woodinville 2-0 to Camas in the semifinals and ultimately wound up fourth, later losing 7-4 to Tahoma – which enjoyed a fabulous season and should be a contender again.
Arlington nipped Camas 2-1 in the title game. The Eagles lost Ladines, and four other key seniors, but Camas is loaded again with two dynamite pitchers and is the early 4A favorite.
I’m not sure there was a clear-cut favorite in 3A last year. Kamiakin of Kennewick wound up capturing a second straight title – only the second team in the 2000s to win back-to-back (Kennedy doubled up in 2007 and ’08).
But the Braves came into the tournament with seven losses (some to 4A teams in that mixed Mid-Columbia Conference). I expected a good showing from Meadowdale – and got it. The Mavericks reached the semis before losing 2-1 to Kamiakin – their only 3A loss of the season (they had two losses to 4A teams). They bounced back to place third.
Kamiakin returns almost everyone from last year’s squad, so a three-peat won’t be out of the question.
Among the local 2A teams, I’m going to keep my eye on Lake Washington – which has had a couple of impressive early wins over Redmond and Arlington. You can look for the Kangaroos to be featured in this notebook before long.
For Arlington, it’s all about the ‘O’
Coach Dan Eng chuckles a lot when he talks about this year’s Arlington team.
There’s still a lot to smile about, indeed, but reason for nervous laughter, too.
Ladines, who now plays at KentState, enjoyed a fantastic senior season after coming back from a broken finger suffered during basketball. She finished with a 12-1 record and 0.17 ERA with 154 strikeouts in 83 innings. At the plate, she carried a .552 batting average with a 1.259 slugging percentage.
“I really miss her,” Eng said with that chuckle. “I also miss my catcher, third baseman and second baseman.”
In all, the coach lost five seniors from last year’s team who were among his top six hitters.
The line player back in that upper echelon is senior first baseman Kate McDonald, who batted around .457. She has committed to Western.
The Eagles are 2-1 thus far with wins over Everett (12-2) and Stanwood (10-5) and a loss in between to LW (7-0).
“It’s been an adventure thus far,” Eng said. “In our first few games, if our offense goes, we go, if our offense doesn’t go, we don’t go.”
All three starting outfielders return – senior Marissas Rathert in center, senior Katelynn Kazen in left and sophomore Kendall Fields in right.
In the pitching circle, junior Maddy Maclain and Chandler Bishop will shoulder the load. Maclain missed last season with a knee injury, while Bishop threw for the junior varsity.
Arlington plays in what should be a tough WesCo 4A North Division that includes Snohomish and LakeStevens, both unbeaten early on along with Mount Vernon.
Eng isn’t talking about another title run just yet – at least not a state title.
“Our goal is to make it back to the district tournament,” he said, “and by then hopefully things have come together and we can make it happen.”
Changing of the guard at Holy Names
That familiar face is still in the dugout for Holy Names.
But his role is different.
Jerry Millsap announced his retirement after the 2013 season, ending an impressive 18-yard run as head coach that included trips to state in each of the final six campaigns.
But he is back to help out the new boss, Dale Yamamoto, who was his assistant the past three years.
The Cougars lost some key cogs from last year’s team – including first baseman Shelby McCannel, who was a Star Times choice last spring after batting better than .600.
But the cupboard is hardly bare. Senior Sam Carlson is now at first and the two coaches say she may be one of the most powerful hitters Holy Names has ever had. She’s blasted four home runs in the past two games – one of which landed around 250 feet out!
Other key seniors include catcher Claire McCarthy (already a two-time All-Metro choice), center fielder Bella Root and pitcher Kaitlin Cappetto.
Junior Casey Pelz earned All-Metro honors at third base last season.
“I do know we have a good competitive team,” Yamamoto said. “How good, we will see.”
Holy Names lost its season opener to South Kitsap, 10-8, then beat Ballard, 11-1. Both are 4A teams. The Cougars have recorded three lopsided Metro victories since, piling up 58 runs while allowing just two.
As always, their biggest league opponent will be Bainbridge, which just missed a state trophy last season. You can read more about the Spartans in an upcoming notebook.
But that’s it for this week.