All Greater Spokane League fingers are pointing at Rogers High School as this year’s softball favorite.
The Pirates return virtually their entire team during a year when Spokane hosts the State AAA Tournament as part of Springfest.
“They are loaded,” said North Central coach Herm Marshal. “They’re the team to beat, most definitely.”
Rogers went 13-3 and finished second in the GSL last year. Nothing should change for Coach Paul Cooley.
“We’re in an unenviable position because we’re the favorites,” Cooley said. “But it’s an honor to be considered the best in league.
“We have pride in our program. It’s been solid.”
NC, too, had only one senior on a team that went 6-10 but scored two or fewer runs in 10 games, including seven shutout losses.
Rogers and NC will face each other next Thursday in the GSL opener for both teams.
Mead, last year’s third-place finisher, was Spokane’s lone state qualifier. The Panthers have a new coach, Bridget Monahan, who assisted last season.
Shadle Park went 1-15. The Highlanders have a new coach, former NC star Teresa Hansen.
The Pirates have the best pitcher in league, one of five returning seniors.
That is, said Cooley, a plus.
“One of the things I’ve noticed right away is we have a lot of leadership,” he said.
Traci Moore has been a pitching and hitting star for the Pirates for three years. She’s joined by fellow seniors, third-year first basemanpitcher Gena Greenside, third baseman Charlotte Perry, shortstop Shannon Zahrowski and outfielder Brandy Nelson, currently recovering from a broken ankle.
Veteran players include junior outfielders Mandy Flores and Teana Scott, sophomore catcher Angie Vulcano and second baseman Jaime Christensen.
“She’s one of the best I’ve seen, and I’ve been around a long time,” said Cooley. “Jaime’s the total package - offense, defense and speed.”
Also on the team are outfielders Jennifer Wells and Carly Nil.
Last year’s team played nine errorless games, and this year the offense is better after a summer of fastpitch competition.
“I hate to say this,” said Cooley, “but it seems like we’re in midseason form.”
Mead has a new coach and new pitchers but the same aspirations.
After finishing third in the GSL last year, the Panthers advanced to state.
They lost in 11 innings to the eventual champion and in eight innings the next day, both by a run.
“They had a tough state tournament last year, so they are really hungry,” said Monahan.
Leading the way are returning first-team All GSL players Kelly Kinder at second base and Marci Meddock in centerfield.
They are among eight seniors on the team. Included are varsity veteran catchers Chris DeGuire and Wendy Ziegler, third baseman Stacey Armitage and outfielder Jodie Slackman.
Up from junior varsity are outfielders Ann Flanigan and Camie Hansen.
Juniors are pitcher-shortstop Holly VanWert, outfielder Ellie Rayner and third base-catcher Kristin Fuller.
Three sophomores complete the Panther varsity: pitcher-shortstop Holly Turner, who is just coming off the basketball season, and first base candidates Andrea Carnahan and Jami Hayes.
Monahan has stressed conditioning, working the team harder than in past years.
“We’ve got a really strong returning group,” she said. “They are very focused and have high expectations of themselves. I do too.”
Except for run production, North Central last year was competitive with the league’s better teams.
“We really have to work on our hitting,” said Marshall. “We hit well under .200.
“When you’re not scoring runs, there’s no way you can win.”
Returnees include the junior battery of pitcher Denise Devereaux and catcher Kami McGowan.
Devereaux is suffering tendinitis and won’t be ready early. Shortstop Roxanne Devine will be her temporary replacement, necessitating defensive moves.
The regular lineup will include letter winners senior Shawna Kristin at first, junior Tera Young at second and short, and senior Angie Corigliano at third.
The senior outfield includes center fielder Jen Risinger, sisters Michelle and Wendy Taylor, plus juniors Amanda Jones and Donna Scott.
Newcomers are second basemen Andrea Abney, a sophomore, Kim Allen, a junior, and outfielder Amber Harrington, also a junior.
“We can’t strike out as much last year and have to put the ball in play,” said Marshall.’
“Having everybody back should be an advantage. It better be or we’re in big trouble.”
The Highlanders have their second softball coach in as many years.
Hansen, who played at Community Colleges of Spokane and Western Washington University, will build on former coach Tara Flugel’s philosophy of dedication and intensity.
“Part of the change has to do with attitude and pride in the program,” said Hansen. “Every day we have to ask, Are we getting better?”
Shadle is young and, said Hansen, raw. There are only two seniors on the team, five juniors and a freshman, and the rest are sophomores.
Returning letter winners include senior third baseman Angela DeMain and second baseman Anne Stanek, junior shortstop Christina Hernandez and sophomore pitcher Becky Alberts. She will split time with junior Mary Jones.
At first base is sophomore Harmony Nelson. Catcher will be either Rainie Drake, Teresa Miller or Alicia Biddel.
In the outfield are freshman Tara Buckley and sophomore Erica Hall, with the other position up for grabs.
“Not many of the players have experience,” said Hansen. “But I believe with these people we have the group to change things around.”
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