Her blond hair pulled back into a long ponytail, Sean Topp sat in a dugout fidgeting with her softball glove while watching her teammates run through bunting and defensive drills.
A former Post Falls High standout, Topp walked away from fastpitch softball 11/2 years ago. The sport’s allure was too much to ignore, however, and Topp joined Janet Skaife’s program at Community Colleges of Spokane after sitting out a quarter.
Topp’s decision to renew her softball career proved fruitful this year. She’s developed into the Sasquatch’s top pitcher and leads CCS into this weekend’s NWAACC Championships in Portland. The Sasquatch (36-9) play Green River (10-14) in the first round Friday morning at 11:30.
A 5-foot-11 hurler who can throw multiple variations of each of her pitches, Topp said she has garnered interest from Whitworth and Eastern Oregon. One moment, she can picture herself on a field playing with new teammates. The next, she debates whether that’s what she desires. Collegiate softball requires a considerable investment of time and energy, and she questioned if she had enough of both as she pursues her degree.
“People expect me to go on,” Topp said, noting she’s played softball since first grade. “I’d like it to be a good opportunity. But what I really want is to go for my career. I’m not sure what jobs are out there, but I’d really like to go into interior design or business. Or both.”
Topp (16-6, 1.60 ERA) isn’t suffering from a case of burnout. Rather, she’s gauging where softball fits into her future. Playing opportunities rarely exist beyond college, and Skaife added many players are content to end their careers after two years at the college level.
“Softball is a part of their life, but it’s not their life,” Skaife said. “It has to be just a portion of their life.”
If softball players could be defined as lifers, Heather Jackson and Ashley Fargher – both of whom signed scholarship offers in March with Weber State University in Ogden, Utah – are two examples. The two were named CCS co-captains this season.
Jackson is the catalyst as the Sasquatch’s leadoff hitter. She’s batting .472 with 23 doubles and 20 stolen bases. Skaife said Jackson “has the best range of any third baseman I’ve seen here” and could be an All-America candidate.
“Heather Jackson is all business from the first pitch to the last,” Skaife said.
Fargher was an All-America catcher as a freshman, but she suffered a torn labrum in her right shoulder and required surgery last November. She could have redshirted this year and retained a third year of eligibility at Weber State, but she elected to grind out her final season at CCS.
“This year,” Fargher said, “I made a commitment to the team, the girls, the coaching staff: ‘I’m here to play with you guys. I’m not going to leave you.’ As a captain, or a teammate or a friend, I can not do that and not feel like I was backstabbing them. Even if it does mean I have to sit half the season.”
Fargher, who has appeared behind the plate just four times this year, said she finished her final day of physical therapy Monday. Her batting average – .413 in 2008 – hovered a little higher than .300 before an 8-for-8 effort in a doubleheader sweep at Big Bend last weekend pushed it to .351.
While Jackson and Fargher have signed letters of intent, CCS outfielder Michelle Wells said she will play her final collegiate game this weekend. Wells has driven in an NWAACC-best 60 runs with 10 home runs and a .453 batting average.
Skaife said Wells is a Division I-caliber hitter and right fielder, but Wells said she prefers to focus on a radiology degree.
Wells shared a similar belief with many of her teammates that the Sasquatch, who shared the NWAACC East Region’s regular-season title with Wenatchee Valley, are among the favorites in the conference tournament.
“I just want to have fun and mainly go out the best I could,” she said. “This is what I’ve been playing for the whole year.”
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