By David Krueger Herald Writer
Last year Arlington made it to the state playoffs for the first time in 14 years, making its first trip ever as a 4A school. The Eagles were almost a unanimous pick among coaches as the favorite to win the conference this season, largely because it keeps the main core of its team from last season, including All-Wesco North second team pitcher Veronica Ladines.
“They had a good team last year, and I think most of them were juniors,” said Lake Stevens head coach Adrienne Lartz. “They got to keep most of their returning players.”
Dark Horses: Marysville Pilchuck, Snohomish
Marysville Pilchuck might be more of a favorite than a dark horse. The Tomahawks did finish second in 4A last year at the state tournament. But Marysville Pilchuck lost several starters to graduation, and with Marysville Getchell fielding a team for the first time, it might lose out on some young Marysville talent to recoup that loss. At least one Wesco coach thinks Snohomish might make a run this season as well. “Snohomish is scary good,” said new Marysville Getchell head coach Mike Moran, previously with Jackson.
Player to watch: Devan Larsen, Monroe, shortstop/pitcher, Sr.
The Monroe shortstop and pitcher earned second-team All-Wesco honors last year. The Bearcats’ leader in homeruns last season, Larsen is looking to play Division One softball somewhere, a goal that Monroe head coach Curt Eskeback thinks is easily attainable. “She’s a hard worker,” he said. “She’s just a great asset to the team. … She’s a quality young lady. A good athlete and a good student.”
Notable Names: Katlyn Purvis, Snohomish, So., Third base; Rayne Sylvester, Lake Stevens, so., Shortstop/Pitcher/Catcher; Haley Fritz, Marysville Pilchuck, Jr., Second Base
Jackson has visited the state tournament the past two seasons and won the Wesco South title the past eight, cementing itself as the perennial preseason favorite in the South. However, Jackson did lose a good portion of last year’s team, including Moran, its former coach. On the other hand, the Timberwolves welcome Kyle Peacocke, formerly of Everett, who’s had some postseason success of his own. Combine that with Jackson’s history of swapping out departed seniors for new talent, and the Timberwolves’ bid for a ninth title looks pretty good.
“They have a program that seems to reload every year,” said Edmonds-Woodway coach Mike Venable. “Even though they lost one of their pitchers they had another younger one have success against us. They have an excellent program all the way around. I think they’ll be good again this year.”
“It’s one of those deals where Jackson, year after year, puts together amazing teams,” agreed Bill Bowker, the head coach at Kamiak. “I tend to go with them off the bat.”
Dark Horse: Cascade
Cascade looks to make a splash in its first season in the Wesco South conference. The Bruins finished 15-10 last season in the North, but are now in a five-team 4A conference where the second-best 4A team last season finished 9-14.
“Last season, when we played them, they had some really effective players,” Bowker said. “They could put together a really great team as well.”
Player to watch: Megan Cooley, Jackson, outfielder, Sr.
Cooley is one of four returning starters from last year’s Jackson team that got to the state tournament. The outfielder, who is headed to Boston College after this season, is a great leader and example for her younger teammates to follow, according to Peacocke, the first-year Jackson coach.
“Megan is kind of the total package of a softball player,” Peacocke said. “She’s fast, she’s intelligent, she makes good decisions.”
Notable Names: Catcher Cassady Orstad, Edmonds-Woodway, jr., Catcher; Angie McFall, Kamiak, jr., Shortstop/Pitcher; Megan Miller, Cascade, Sr., Third Base/Shortstop.
All Everett’s done the past few seasons is get four top eight finishes in the last five 3A state tournaments. Only three seniors leave a team that tied for seventh last year and third the year before.
“I know they have a lot of talent,” said Glacier Peak head coach Brad Johnson. “The twins (seniors Chloe and Lauren Kesterson) have both signed (letters of intent). Lexie Levine is going to Western. They have a lot of girls going to play in college. They kind of have everything put together.”
Dark Horse: Mountlake Terrace, Shorecrest, Lynnwood
The spot behind Everett appears to be wide-open. Mountlake Terrace reached the 3A state tournament last season, where it was eliminated by Everett. The Hawks lost a few players from that team but return several key players, including junior pitcher Rene Bos.
Shorecrest and Lynnwood also have a couple other coaches nervous.
“Shorecrest is one that I see is up and coming,” said Johnson. “Last year, they got some really young talent. …I could see them as somebody that’s going to surprise a few teams.”
As for Lynnwood, Bowker – who’s happy his Knights aren’t in Lynnwood’s conference – sees the Royals as a strong up and coming team. Lynnwood won the conference just three seasons ago, and could again be at the top of the standings this season.
“It’s really interesting to see the progress they’ve made,” Bowker said
Player to watch: Annie Reynolds, Glacier Peak, shortstop, Sr.
Reynolds, who has been a varsity starter since her freshman season, was an All-Wesco 3A honorable mention last year as a junior. The shortstop hopes to help a young Glacier Peak squad to get back on top in Wesco 3A. The Grizzlies finished fifth last season after winning the conference title the year before.
“Annie Reynolds had a lot of postseason recognition around the league,” Johnson said. “She’s definitely a player to watch.”
Notable Names: Lexie Levin, Everett, Sr., First Base; Jordyn Berg, Lynnwood, Sr., Outfielder; Jeanna Berg, Shorecrest, So., Second Base
Favorite: Granite Falls
Granite Falls has spent the past couple seasons at – or tied for – the top of the Cascade Conference, and been to the last three 2A state tournaments. It doesn’t look like that’s going to change this season.
“I have a feeling that Granite Falls is still going to be on top, just because I don’t think they lost a lot,” said Archbishop Murphy coach Stephanie Harmon. “They’re usually strong.”
Dark Horse: Sultan, Archbishop Murphy
Archbishop Murphy is usually high in the Cascade Conference standings, but lost its starting pitcher leading to a bit of a pitching by committee that features a converted catcher (see below). Sultan, meanwhile, has steadily climbed up the standings and may be poised for a breakout year.
“Sutlan came back over the past couple of years,” Harmon said. “They’ve got a great coaching staff and they’ve really turned it around. I have a feeling they’re going to surprise some people this year because they surprised a lot of people last year.”
Player to watch: Marea Homes, Archbishop Murphy, catcher, Sr.
Homes, who’s entering her fourth season as the Wildcats’ varsity catcher, will soon find herself on the other end of that position after the graduation of last year’s All-Area player – and Murphy pitcher – Amanda Manuel.
“(Homes) is going to have to step in to pitch,” Harmon said.
Her first start will mark the first innings Homes has pitched in her high school career. But Harmon isn’t too worried about Homes’ ability.
“She’s such a great athlete she can step in and do a great job,” the Murphy coach said.
Notable Name: Logan Thomas, Granite Falls, Sr., Outfielder.