Three more teams take the forefront in this week’s edition of Triple Play, my weekly softball blog.
First up will be Woodinville, and the Falcons’ plans to continue their winning tradition despite the loss of one of the state’s best pitching-catching combos – Madi Schreyer and Alex Boyd.
Then you’ll hear from Beamer coach Brian Hering and how the Titans hope to breaking more ground after qualifying for state for the first time in school history last season with a super-young team.
Finally, I’ll get you up to date on Juanita, where former star pitcher Traci Odegard has returned to take over the coaching reins.
Expectations remain high at Woodinville
At the start of each season, Woodinville coaches ask their players to fill out a questionnaire covering a variety of topics. One question deals with season goals, and typically a common answer is “Win State!”
When coach Dani Weir sorted through this year’s questionnaires, she was disappointed to see that only one player had listed that as the team’s ultimate goal – a goal the Falcons achieved in 2005 and 2012.
“We had to have a little chat,” said Weir, who was a junior on that 2005 team that was coached by her father, Jim. “I told them, ‘There are a lot of different ways to win a state championship. You don’t have to have one ace.’ Ever since then, these girls started playing together as a unit. They understand they’re going to have to play more defense, which in turn has made them better players. And they understand they’re going to need more offense, which also has made them better players.”
Weir, in her second year as head coach after two seasons with the junior varsity, had this message overall: “This is Woodinville softball. This is business. It’s fun, but we do want to continue the tradition of success.”
Sure, Schreyer (Stanford) and Boyd (Oregon State) left major voids, but second baseman Emily Jackson was the only other fulltime starter to graduate (Alex Nelson, the other senior on last year’s team, split time in the outfield). And there are some impressive freshmen jumping in.
Let’s not forget that tradition, either. Over the past nine seasons, the Falcons have gone 137-10 in KingCo 4A Conference play, including 58-1 over the past four years. They brought a 53-game league win streak into the 2014 season – which was promptly broken by Eastlake in the conference opener, 5-2.
The Falcons were 5-0 overall to that point, and players responded to that loss as expected.
“They didn’t like it,” Weir said. “It left a really bad taste in their mouths.
“I was actually kind of glad we got that out of the way early on in the season. We got to go back to practice on work on the things we needed to work on. It showed us everyone has to be on the same page with the same goal. We had a little come-to-Jesus meeting the next day, then shook if off and flushed it and were ready to go. It took a little pressure off the girls.”
Woodinville is now 9-1 with four of those victories coming in the final inning.
“They’ve shown a lot of character and a lot of heart,” Weir said. “They’ve learned a lot and shown a lot of mental toughness. It’s been pretty fun to watch, and pretty fun to coach. They’ve got some fight and that competitive mentality.”
A new Boyd has taken over behind the plate – freshman Jordyn Boyd. Ironically, she is not related to Alex Boyd.
“She’s been holding her own,” Weir said. “The ball doesn’t get past her. She walked in knowing she had big shoes to fill and she’s been doing an outstanding job.”
Boyd is holding her own at the plate, too, batting .391 with two doubles, eight runs scored and six RBI.
Schreyer handled most of the pitching duties last season, when the Falcons wound up fourth at state after losing to Camas in the semifinals (and later Tahoma). Kathryn Hatlen picked up three league wins as a sophomore and is currently 3-0 overall with 20 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings and a 2.53 ERA.
But freshman Olivia Riener is getting the ball more regularly, especially against the tougher opponents.
“I see a little Madi in her as far as her presence on the mound goes,” Weir said. “She’s got a lot of pop on her ball. I think she’s going to be pretty outstanding.”
Reiner is 5-1 with 18 Ks in 30 1/3 innings and a 3.23 ERA. She is also hitting .389 with 10 RBI.
Two other freshman, twins Lauryn and Taylor Rhinehart, round out the pitching staff. Taylor is also splitting time at second base with junior Alena Jones.
Hatlen, who plays at third or is the DP when not pitching, is batting .455 with four doubles and a triple, driving in 14 runs.
Other top hitters include left fielder Maggie Loyet (.391), first baseman Alyssa O’Farrell (.387 with six extra-base hits, 13 runs, nine RBI) and center fielder Nicole Shavlik (.385).
The KingCo Crest Division appears pretty balanced this season. Redmond is currently 5-0 after yesterday’s 9-8 win over Eastlake (now 4-2) with Bothell and Woodinville both 4-1 and Inglemoor 3-3.
“It’s going to be a dogfight every day,” Weir said. “You can’t take a day off.”
Woodinville is scheduled to play Bothell on Monday and take on Redmond the following Friday, April 25.
Beamer wants some state hardware this time
Brian Hering knew he’d have a good team at Beamer last season, his second as head coach. But he figured this would be their year.
He wound up being right about the first part of that assessment, as the team reached the 4A state tournament for the first time in school history. We’ll have to wait and see about the rest of it, although the Titans are off to a 7-2 start with wins in their past seven games.
Catcher Halle Colson was the only senior on last year’s team, which took an impressive third place at the West Central District tourney. All 11 other 11 players return – and they’ve got some definite goals.
“We still don’t have any softball plaques in our gym,” Hering said. “Our No. 1 goal is to be the top team out of the SPSL South and get that first-round bye in the SPSL playoffs, and then have everything fall into place from there….Our ultimate goal is final four (at state). We want to come home with something from state.”
The Titans went home empty handed last year, finishing 2-2. After a first-round win over Bothell, they lost to eventual-champion Arlington in the quarterfinals. They then knocked out Lake Stevens before getting eliminated by Newport in a heartbreaker, 9-8.
This year’s team got off to a bit of a rough start with losses to Woodinville (6-4) and Kentridge (2-1). The Titans led Woodinville 4-1 through four innings and 4-3 through six, and wound up making some uncharacteristic mistakes, a few of those coming after Hering made some substitutions to get backups in the game. Beamer wound up with four errors.
“Othere than that, our defense has been outstanding,” the coach said.
Indeed, the Titans have committed only four other errors the rest of the season.
“Offensively, we’re just scrappy,” Hering said. “We’re playing our game, rather than playing someone else’s game, which is really nice.”
And the name of that game is small ball.
“We’re not a homerun hitting team,” Hering said. “We’re going to hit and slap and move people around. We’re going to steal bases. Everyone but our pitcher has stolen a base this year.”
The Titans are 35-of-37 in stolen bases, led by junior outfielder Analee Scott, who has been caught once in 10 tries. Maddie Colson, another junior outfielder, is 6-for-6 anf sophomore infielder McKenzie Palmer is 5-for-6. Sophomore Jourdin Hering, the other starting outfielder and coach’s daughter, is 4-for-4.
“Our outfield is fast,” Hering said. “They do whatever I need them to do, and they were all first or second team (all-league) last year.”
They are getting it done at the plate, too. Scott leads the squad with a .562 average and team-high 11 runs scored and eight RBI (tied for second). Colson is batting .348 and also has eight RBI, while Hering is at .346 with nine runs scored.
Among the other top hitters are third baseman Taylor Weimern-Pierce (.478, team-high nine RBI, nine runs), shortstop Megan Jewett-Chan (.433, eight RBI) and Palmer (.400, eight runs).
The Titans do have some pop in their bats with 25 doubles (nine players with two or more).
Freshman Raelynn Gradel has taken over at catcher and drawing raves from her coach.
“She’s actually calling her own games already,” Hering said. “She’s just stepped it up big-time. She has been phenomenal.”
The coach also has high praise for Jewett-Chan at short.
“She has been a gem,” he said of the sure-handed senior. “She is just playing out of her mind right now.”
Most of the pitching duties are being handled by junior Maddie Rogers, who has all nine decisions. She has allowed just four earned runs in 50 2/3 innings (0.55 ERA) with 77 strikeouts.
“She’s been unbelievable,” Hering said.
He expects Rogers to battle for SPSL South MVP honors with Puyallup ace Marissa Miller. Beamer and Puyallup are both 6-0 in league play, followed by Bethel at 5-2, and are scheduled to play tomorrow (Friday) at Beamer.
“It looks like it’s going to be us and Puyallup battling for first,” Hering said, “although Bethel has really come on this year, too.”
Odegard returns home, eyes return to state
Traci Odegard didn’t hesitate when she got the call.
On the other end was Kristian Dahl, who wanted to know if she was interested in coming back to her alma mater to coach the softball team. Dahl had been an assistant under Tim Crowder when Odegard played at Juanita from 2005-07, and then taken over as head coach.
With Dahl pursuing his administrative credentials, he wanted to put the program in good hands. Odegard, who had gone on to play four seasons at UNLV, had been teaching and coaching in Las Vegas the past two seasons.
Dahl didn’t have to ask twice.
“Being from Juanita and Kirkland, it was incredible for me to be able to come back home,” Odegard said.
And there are some traditions she wants to keep, with the help of Crowder, now one of her assistants.
The Rebels have qualified for the 3A state tournament in each of the past five seasons, just missing a trophy last year after taking first in 2011 and fourth in 2012.
“The goal is to make it back there for sure,” Odegard said. “We have a lot of work to do, but our two seniors want to go out on a good run. The girls are playing hard and working on their team chemistry.”
There are a lot of new faces as last year’s crew included eight seniors. And the inexperience showed early on as the Rebels started 0-3 against KingCo 4A opponents.
“I think they were playing a little scared those first games,” Odegard said. “We had to let them know how good they are and the talent they have, and they’ve killed it ever since.”
The Rebels won their next eight (including a forfeit from Mercer Island) before falling 3-0 Monday to Lake Washington.
One of the team’s two seniors is pitcher Milly Kawabata, who will go on to play at Washington College next season. She is 4-2 with 52 strikeouts in 47 innings and a 2.38 ERA – and her battery mate is freshman Tatum Kawabata, her sister.
Sophomore Lisa Nelson, who pitches and plays first, is 2-2 with 26 Ks in 22 at-bats
The other senior is outfielder Morgan Figueroa, who has signed with Fordham University.
“She’s got great range,” Odegard said. She’s one of the best outfielders I’ve seen in a long time….She is the fastest little girl. You can count on her getting on base every time.”
Well, most times anyway. She is batting .333, but throw in five walks and three reached-by-error and her on-base percentage is .531. Plus she’s 9-for-9 on stolen bases and has scored a team-best 10 times.
Junior shortstop Madi Hedlund has gotten off to a hot start offensively, batting .400.
“She hits the ball so hard,” Odegard said.
Nelson has a team-high four home runs and shares the RBI lead with junior outfielder Aimee Richardson at seven.
Odegard admits she feels a little bit of pressure to maintain a winning program.
“But I try to look at it as keeping the tradition going,” she said.