In fast-pitch softball, whom you lose to graduation is more important than how many.
Central Valley lost nine seniors off a squad that shared the Greater Spokane League title and reached the state Class 4A tournament for the second straight season.
So, how does a team that loses an entire starting lineup to graduation end up 5-0 to start the new season?
The Bears have a transfer from Fort Worth, Texas, starting at shortstop and a few key defenders back from a year ago. But most importantly, they have the top pitcher in the GSL back for her senior season.
Carli Riordan, a two-time league Most Valuable Player, has been the CV starter since her freshman season and is a multiple-time All-GSL first-team selection despite missing time with injuries and multiple surgeries.
“I haven’t seen everyone in the league yet,” University coach Jon Schuh said. “I haven’t seen Carli pitch yet but she’s certainly the top pitcher in the league and she’ll stay that way until someone tops her.
“Lewis and Clark has a senior (Sage Scheiwiller) who does a really good job and is around the plate all the time. Shadle Park has a freshman (Jaya Allen) who has great velocity. And I’m very pleased with the job I’m getting from my starter, (lefty) Alex (Douglas).”
Through the first five games, Riordan already posted a no-hitter, blanking Gonzaga Prep, and posted 16 strikeouts and stroked a two-run double in the eighth inning to drive in the winning runs against Mead. She struck out 13 and shut out North Central, the team with whom the Bears shared last year’s league title, 3-0.
Shayla Vegas, the Texas transfer, had three hits against Mead, scored three times and drove in a run against Mead.
Riordan is the poster girl for the first recruiting class for the University of Montana’s upcoming fast-pitch softball program and is likely to be the opening day pitcher when the program makes its debut next year.
Schuh puts it bluntly.
“Basically we’ve had one bad inning and that’s it,” he said.
The Titans gave up five runs to Mt. Spokane in the third inning of their game at U-Hi last week.
Those five runs are the only runs the Titans have given up in five league games and the team has allowed just one run in non-league games. U-Hi blanked Rogers (10-0), Shadle Park (8-0), Mead (9-0) and Lewis and Clark (5-0).
Douglas struck out seven while picking up the shutout win over LC to forge a second-place tie with the Tigers one game behind CV. She fanned eight in shutting out both Mead and Shadle Park.
Schuh said his team relies on several freshmen.
“I was reading the baseball preview and teams would list the strengths, and then they’d list their weaknesses and it would always be ‘youth,’ ” he said. “I was thinking that you couldn’t really say that about fast-pitch.
“I think our young players come in having played a lot of softball, and the more games you play the better. Overall, I’d say we’re progressing nicely.”
The Knights have scored a lot of runs on the road to start the season, pushing 20 runs across the plate in the final two innings of a 25-8 win at Pullman and scored 13 in a win at Cheney.
But EV dropped a 10-4 decision to Cheney in the second game of its doubleheader and fell to Colville, led by dominating pitcher McKenna Cabbage, last year’s MVP, 10-2.
Junior Jackie Lucas was an All-Great Northern League first-team infielder a year ago, and starting pitcher Ciera Lockwood was a second-team All-GNL pick.
Pitcher Jenna Trinkle posted a 10-0 shutout win over Pullman to start a doubleheader sweep over the Greyhounds, and picked up a win over last year’s GSL co-champion NC as the Eagles broke a 1-1 tie with a run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Eagles’ lone loss in their first five games came at the hands of Cabbage and Colville, which posted a 12-2 win.
West Valley returns All-GNL first-team catcher Katelyn Sage, an outstanding backstop.