When I did my Greater Spokane League softball preview this week, the thesis was, what with two-time Washington Gatorade Player of the Year Samantha Skillingstad and Kelsie Vallies graduated, had a pitching era come to an end?
The GSL swept all four state team berths back in 1998 and over 11 years the league averaged 2.5 teams to state behind an array of pitching, peaking between 2003 and 2008 with two state titles (U-Hi and Shadle), two seconds (The Highlanders) and two fourths (Shadle and North Central).
Will this year be different? Mead and Central Valley, pre-season favorites, opened the season with shutout wins.
What are your thoughts?
Here's a look down pitching's state memory lane:
1998 - Three-time state qualifier senior Cheryl Andrizzi, University (also, 1996, '97) joined by Janessa Karstens, league MVP Mead; Jessica Murray, Shadle Park; Kylie Curry, Ferris in GSL sweep of state berths. (It is first of four state appearances for Murray through 2001).
1999 - Megan Owen (U-Hi) pitches in first of two state tournaments, joined by Kaylene Fountain Lewis and Clark and Rebecca Tripplet, 3A East Valley. Also Heather Bunkowski, U-Hi.
2000 - Owen and Murray
2001 - Murray, Kayla Schreiber, EV; Callie McGilley, U-Hi
2002-03 - Spring Montgomery, EV; Ashley Maier and Destiny Gordon U-Hi. The Titan duo pitch U-Hi to state title in '03.
2004-05 - Kim Watson in the final two years of a four-year varsity career, and Linse Vlahovich, U-Hi pitch their teams to state both years. Stephanie Trudeau, Shadle, caps four-year career with state trip in '05.
2005-08 - Skillingstad and Vallies reach state all four years. Highlanders finish fourth, second, first and second, Vallies gets fourth in '06. Also, Kristina DeMello, three-year starter, pitches Mt. Spokane to state in 2006.
Skillingstad appears to be the ace as a freshman at Oregon (8-16) with a 6-5 record, 1.85 ERA and 80 strikeouts as the Ducks begin Pac-10 play this week. Vallies is 2-2 in limited duty at Arkansas. Watson is 8-6 with 101 strikeouts and a 2.28 ERA in her fourth year at New Mexico State. Vlahovich is in fourth year at Division II Central Washington University, currently 6-2, 2.27 ERA, school career wins leader. DeMello is at the University of Central Florida after an All-America start at Miami Dade Community College. All, along with Trudeau who pitched at Dartmouth, were on the mound during the 2005 season.