It’s time for another edition of Triple Play, my weekly blog notebook dedicated to softball, and there’s a new twist this time around.
The first segment is on a fun situation involving a mother-daughter duo – who squared off against each other on Monday. Jennifer England is the coach at Kent-Meridian and her daughter, Taylor Lott, is a freshman pitcher at Kentwood.
Then you can read about the unbeaten Snohomish Panthers and their quest to reach the 4A state tournament for the first time since 2000.
Finally, we’ll take a look at hard-hitting Kennedy Catholic, which is led by pitcher Sierra Bains.
Mother, daughter go from fans to foes (but remain fans)
Jennifer England is normally Taylor Lott’s biggest fan on the softball field.
She is, after all, her pitching coach. And, more importantly, her mother.
So England was in a bit of a quandary when Lott got her first varsity start for Kentwood on Monday – because mom was in the opposing dugout as head coach for Kent-Meridian.
The two had enjoyed some friendly banter leading up to the game.
“It was nonstop,” Lott said. “We were competitive about it, but it was friendly….She was saying, ‘We’re going to hit off you!’ But I think we both knew she wasn’t going to win.”
And the Royals didn’t, losing 10-2 as Lott tossed a three-hitter. Both runs were unearned.
It’s been a long time since Kent-Meridian won a South Puget Sound League game. As far as I can tell, that hasn’t happened since the Royals beat a winless team from Federal Way (then in the North Division) in 2008. And there were no league wins in at least the four years prior to that.
England, in her second season, is trying to turn things around and already sees progress, even though the team is 0-5 thus far.
“Our defense has come a mile,” she said.
Even Lott pulls for K-M – as long as the opponent isn’t Kentwood.
“I kind of root for them because they’re such underdogs,” she said.
Lott was all business Monday.
“She was in a zone,” England said. “She didn’t want anything to do with me. She was trying to earn her varsity stripes.”
Lott generally throws for Kentwood’s junior varsity as the varsity team features one of the league’s top pitchers, junior Kendall Goodwin, who is 4-0 in league play with a 0.88 ERA.
Kentwood coach Jason Wisor decided to give Lott the start against struggling K-M and also substituted freely, according to England.
Lott admits she did give her mom a bit of a cold shoulder during the game.
“I was afraid I might lose a little bit of focus if I paid attention to her,” she said. “I wanted to prove myself to the girls.”
England said the experience was fun, and difficult.
“I want to win a game, but I didn’t want to beat my daughter,” she said.
Snohomish wants to win when it counts
Winning now is nice. Winning later is necessary.
And that’s what the Snohomish Panthers are focused on as they remember the sting from last year’s collapse in the Northwest District tournament.
After claiming the WesCo 4A North Division crown at 12-2 and winning 19 regular-season games, the Panthers appeared prime to end a long state drought, last qualifying in 2000.
But they lost to Lake Stevens in the district semifinals and ultimately failed to advance. They survived one elimination game, then fell 5-4 to Newport of Bellevue with a final state berth on the line.
With all but three starters back, coach Lou Kennedy doesn’t have to worry about this year’s team taking anything for granted – not even their 8-0 start.
“They’re really driven,” he said. “They have one goal, and this (state) is it. They understand that winning right now is is great, but it doesn’t mean anything unless we’re winning in the end.”
The team’s five seniors are especially hungry. Four of them – Trysten Melhart (CF), Jenny Winston (SS), Katlyn Purvis (3B) and Bailey Seek (P/1B) – have started fulltime since they were freshmen. Lily Paschal (OF) was brought up midway through that season.
“I call them my Fab 5,” Kennedy said. “They all made an immediate impact. It’s one of those rare classes. They’re at the end of the line and they’ve got to get it done or it’s not going to get done. They want to get to state. They’re working hard and playing extremely well right now.”
All will be playing at the next level with Melhart leading the charge as a UW recruit. She made the Star Times all-area team as a junior last season with a batting average above .700. She currently is hitting .655 with seven triples, two home runs and a double, scoring 20 runs with 11 RBI.
Winston, headed to Colorado Christian, has had the hottest bat with a .700 avreage and 10 RBI.
Purvis, signed with Kent State has a .583 average with four doubles, two homers and a triple, accounting for 14 runs scored and nine RBI.
Seek (Weber State) also is hitting .583 with nine runs scored and 13 RBI. Pitching-wise, she has five of the team’s wins with 40 strikeouts in 24 innings.
Kennedy, in his 10th season, said the team hasn’t had to rely on any one player.
“It seems to be a different person every game,” he said.
And the Panthers are hoping the end results are different this season, too.
Can Sierra Bains get Kennedy Catholic over the hump this spring?
Sierra Bains likes to remind her teammates what it’s like to be at the 3A state softball tournament.
Even though her experience there was just as a young fan, when she came with her father to watch former Kennedy Catholic ace Karli Merlich, who was one of her pitching tutors.
Merlich led the lancers to back-to-back state championships in 2007 and ’08 before going on to play at Texas Tech.
Kennedy managed to get back to the tournament without her the following season, but has come up short each year since.
Bains, now a senior, hopes to end that drought.
“She talks to the girls about the importance of knowing what state feels like,” coach Dino Josie said. “She’s an awesome leader. She wants to be an example to others. She makes everyone around her better.”
Bains had an incredible junior season, batting better than .500 with a slugging percentage near 1.200 and nearly as many RBI as at-bats (going into the district tournament, she had 69 runs in 68 RBI). But in the Lancers’ loser-out tourney opener against Timberline, they fell 12-6 – despite a home run and four RBI by Baines, who was a Star Times selection.
Bains was a utility player last year, playing infield and outfield when not pitching. Kate Lewis was the team’s primary thrower as a senior last spring, but now Bains is shouldering the load in the circle.
“Sierra is pitching better than ever,” Josie said. “She doesn’t throw as hard as Kate, but she’s more consistent. She’s been hitting her spots more consistently.”
Lewis and second baseman Miranda Goff were the only senior starters on last year’s team, so the Lancers have plenty of experience – even though they’re still a young team with Bains as their only senior regular.
They lost sophomore infielder Rose Koch to a knee injury, so Josie has done some juggling with his lineup with junior Emily Porter moving from catcher to third and junior outfielder Haley Kormanik stepping in behind the plate. Sophomore first baseman Haley Beebe also plays some at third and when she does freshman Elise Turpen takes over at first.
The Lancers are 6-0 in Seamount League play, 8-0 overall – including a 5-0 win over Mount Rainier, which features hard-throwing Jasmine Fulmore.
Bains has seven of those wins with a 1.08 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 26 innings. Opposing batters are hitting just .093 off her.
Offensively, her numbers are slightly down from last year, but still impressive — .421 batting average, .842 slugging percentage, 10 RBI.
Sophomore shortstop has had the hottest bat early on with 15 hits in 17 at-bats – an .882 average. With a double and six home runs, her slugging percentage is an off-the-charts 2.000! She has 24 RBI (in 15 at-bats!) and 16 runs scored.
Freshman second baseman Samantha Isernio is hitting .579 with a double, three triples and two homers for a 1.263 slugging percentage and 14 RBI. Turpin, a bunter/slapper who can also play in the outfield, has a .556 average an .720 on-base percentage. Kormanik follows with a .529 average and .700 on-base percentage
As a team, the Lancers are hitting .523 (.654 on-base, .819 slugging) and have outscored opponents 114-11.
Josie regularly mixes up his lineup.
“I have the luxury of being able to play kids in multiple positions,” he said. “I can keep everybody happy and fresh and they don’t get bored doing one thing.”
This year’s coaching staff includes two former Kennedy players – Ashley Davis (2009 graduate) and Taylor Trautmann (2006). Trautmann is the daughter of Mike Trautmann, in his 15th year as an assistant coach. The other assistant is Jim Perkins, in his 14th season.
The Lancers are gunning for a ninth straight Seamount title and determined to finally get back to state.
“We did some goal-setting (Wednesday) at practice and getting to state is our No. 1 thing,” Josie said. “We just haven’t been able to get over the hump in the playoffs. We haven’t been able to finish and close the deal, which makes Sierra so hungry this year after being close and knocking on the door.”
One problem has been the lack of quality pitching the team faces during the regular season, and Josie hopes to counter that with a strong nonleague schedule in May with games against Bellarmine Prep, Jefferson, Wilson and Kentwood.
“I want to face some better pitching going into the playoffs,” he said.