Although the majority of names and faces have changed, Meghan Keenan and the Shadle Park fastpitch softball team are on the precipice of coming full circle.
Keenan helped the Highlanders to an 18-5 record and a berth in the 2016 State 3A tournament as a freshman. Despite the seemingly constant individual accolades that have come to the now-senior, who was a first-team all-league selection each of the past three seasons and was a second-team all-state pick by the Tacoma News Tribune last year, her team fell back from the pack at the top of the pack in the state and the Greater Spokane League.
Shadle again won 18 games in 2017, but was bounced by Mt. Spokane in the district tournament. The Highlanders then lost Jaya Allen – the GSL MVP as a junior and senior – to graduation, and finished 7-14 last season after being swept out of the double-elimination district tournament.
Keenan is the lone remaining player from that state-tournament squad and coach Guy Perham was replaced this past offseason by Scott Kine, who served as an assistant on Perham’s staff. But the Highlanders are once again contending for an appearance in the state tournament.
“Losing Jaya was a really big downfall for our team,” Keenan said of last season’s hiccup. “I think we have a lot more team chemistry this year. We’re all playing like a team, like more of a family.”
Creating that close-knit environment, with a first-year head coach and five freshmen on the roster, is no small feat. But Keenan, through her play and personality, has been the driving force for this Shadle team, which has locked up the GSL No. 2 seed in next week’s District 8 3A tournament.
Her play speaks for itself – Keenan ranks among the league leaders in batting average, hits, home runs and RBIs – but she also helps to keep things light in the dugout.
“I think, to be a good team, you can’t play scared,” she said. “You have to have fun.”
Fun is something the gregarious Keenan specializes in.
“She leads by example, but she loves to socialize and talk to other players and get to know them better,” Kine said. “Sometimes that can get to a point where it draws attention away from the game, but offensively she does so many things well … She has hit some balls as hard as I’ve ever seen a high school player hit.”
Keenan loves the game but acknowledges that there is more to her, and to life, than softball. She is active in other extracurricular activities (varsity volleyball, Highlander Helpers, Letter Club), Young Life and volunteers with her church.
She shies away from talking about her athletic career beyond high school, though she has not yet ruled it out.
“I think I just want to focus on school,” she said of her not-too-distant future. “I want to be a teacher. I want to help kids.”
But before heading off to college (likely at Eastern Washington), Keenan and the Highlanders have some unfinished business.
Shadle heads into the postseason with its only losses coming against Mt. Spokane (twice), University and Central Valley – the league’s top three teams. If the Highlanders (11-4, 7-4) are to return to state, they’ll have to find a way to beat the best teams in the GSL and Mid-Columbia Conference in the district tournament that begins May 10, something Keenan thinks they’re capable of doing.
“I feel like we’re prepared,” she said. “We’ve had a bunch of games to get better and work on our skills.
“We’re going out to have fun. We’re going out to show what we can really do and how we can compete.”
Whatever the future in general holds, Keenan knows she’ll find her way back to the game she loves:
“I’ll definitely come back to softball one day – as a coach or just helping out at Shadle – it will always be a part of me.”
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