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A Tiger on the mound

Thu., April 12, 2007

Zealous pursuits are usually born innocently.

Take, for example, Timberlake High senior Kala Allred. To watch her pitch, one would think she’s been fervent about fastpitch softball since the first day she played.

Allred’s passion grew over time, though. Back in the fourth grade, when she put on a glove for the first time, she turned out for Little League softball at the urging of her best friend, Tarra Tymesen, who lived across the street.

As is typical of neighborhood friends, they shared many things together, including swapping clothes.

“It was pretty easy to convince her to play,” Tymesen remembered. “Like little kids, we could hang out and do another activity together.”

The way Allred looked at it, softball was an after-school time filler to keep her from going home and watching TV.

Tymesen, meanwhile, literally grew out of softball and quit after the seventh grade. Another sport lured her away.

“She grew legs,” Allred said of the 5-foot-11 Tymesen, an all-Intermountain League selection last fall in volleyball who has given North Idaho College an oral commitment.

Allred’s growth stopped at 5-4. Her passion for softball continues to blossom, though, and it became a year-round venture this fall when after two years on Timberlake’s varsity volleyball team she gave up the sport after making the Spokane Sliders 18 Gold team in a late August tryout.

Allred played in three recruiting tournaments with the Sliders in the fall and will rejoin the team after the high school season in late May. Her exposure with the team has a handful of colleges recruiting her, Sliders coach George Lynn said.

“She has to cut me a piece of whatever she gets down the road,” Tymesen said.

Timberlake softball coach Mike Menti will forever be grateful for Tymesen’s influence.

“I owe her a big thank you,” Menti said.

Allred, who has started every game in her four-year career at Timberlake, will leave as the best pitcher in school history.

All of her impressive career statistics aside, there’s something that has eluded Allred and her teammates. Although they’ve won three straight district titles and are heavily favored to do so again, the Tigers have fallen short of expectations at state.

“State has been a disappointment for all of us,” Allred said.

So there were Allred and her teammates last week practicing Saturday morning at the tail end of spring break.

“Last year we took most of spring break off,” Allred said. “This year we had Monday and Tuesday off, but we’ve practiced the rest of the week.”

Menti also beefed up his non-league schedule. He knew it would mean a difficult start, but the end of the year is what the Tigers have their eyes on.

Timberlake is 6-5 overall with losses to Lake City (11-1), Lewiston (3-2), Post Falls (7-6), Kennewick (2-1) and Pullman (12-2). Allred, who is 36-13 overall, is 5-4. Losses to the bigger, better teams will benefit Allred and her teammates more than lopsided, run-rule victories over Intermountain League teams.

“It’s because of Kala that we’ve been able to improve the schedule the last three years,” Menti said.

Allred impressed Lynn during the short fall season. She will be one of four pitchers, including Greater Spokane League standout Sam Skillingstad and Coeur d’Alene four-year starter Jenna DeLong, in the Sliders’ rotation this summer.

“What sells me about Kala is she”s all about softball,” Lynn said. “She lives and breathes softball, and I like her tremendous work ethic.”

DeLong is headed to Drake University to pitch next year. Skillingstad, a junior at Shadle Park, has given Oregon an oral commitment. Lynn said Allred will get the opportunity to play in college. He said Youngstown State, Polytechnic Institute of New York and Maryland Eastern Shore all contacted him last week about Allred. He expects more recruiting interest.

Under the direction of Spokane-based pitching coach Steve Fountain, Allred has developed her pitching arsenal to include six pitches. She added a screwball, which moves in on a right-handed hitter’s hands, this year.

Menti, who calls the pitches, passes his signs on to senior catcher Holli Edelblute, who has caught Allred the last three years. This season, Menti has watched Allred shake off signs occasionally. It’s pleased him when it’s happened.

“I’d love for them to be more involved calling the pitches, but I think it takes a little pressure off them for me to do it,” he said.

Although Allred throws in the upper 50-mph range, she rarely throws a fastball.

“Anybody can hit a flat ball,” Allred said. “Movement is more important than speed. Movement is everything.”

Allred, the IML’s player of the year last season, had one request going into the season.

“She wanted to throw every game,” Menti said.

After Timberlake beat Bonners Ferry 30-0 in the first game of a doubleheader, Menti, for obvious reasons, didn’t start Allred in the second game.

“She glared at me,” Menti said. “She wants to take the circle every time. It’s not a selfish thing. She just wants the ball in her hands. She wants to be that person the team relies on.”

Allred isn’t looking ahead to summer. She’s focused on one thing – getting her team to state and bringing home a state title.

“That’s why we’re out here right now,” Allred said as practice concluded last Saturday. “We’re not going to overlook anybody, but we’re definitely pushing for state.”

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