By David Pan Weekly Herald sports editor
The best is yet to come for the Edmonds-Woodway softball team.
But with a roster of just two seniors, eight juniors and one freshman, the present also looks pretty good. Seven starters return from last season’s district playoff team, making the 2012 squad one of the more experienced teams during head coach Mike Venable’s six-year tenure.
The Warriors already are ahead of where they were last year.
“They sort of know what I expect and know the drills,” Venable said. “It makes it a lot easier getting things accomplished.”
For the third straight season, Edmonds-Woodway will rely on junior pitcher Katelynn Lafferty and junior catcher Cassady Orstad. The two have started almost all of Edmonds-Woodway’s games since their freshman season.
The righthanded Lafferty throws a good mix of pitches, including a fastball, curveball and change-up. She also has a riseball she’ll throw on occasion, Venable said.
Freshman shortstop Samone Jackson will back up Lafferty, but Venable expects his junior standout to pitch most of the innings in 2012.
That’s the way Lafferty likes it.
“She is really competitive,” Venable said. “She likes pitching as much as she can. She likes to be the person. She likes to be the one. She does very well, even when she doesn’t have her best days. She fights through it. She has a good mentality as far as being a starting pitcher.”
So far it appears that Lafferty is sharper in terms of her control, Venable added.
Orstad has worked hard on her defensive skills in the offseason and Venable can see the improvement.
Having a pitcher and catcher who have experience working together is definitely an advantage.
“This will be their third year together,” Venable said. “They’ve been going through it together. They have a feel for calling pitches.”
Jackson, a starter on the basketball team, has been tapped to start at shortstop.
“She is very quick and she has a quick release as far as the defense goes,” Venable said. “She’s a good contact hitter and although she is small in stature, she generates really good power.”
Joining Jackson in the infield are senior first baseman Sydney Daniel, junior second baseman Lauren Nguyen and junior Ana Matulovich. Daniel, who also will play in the outfield, earned second-team, all-league honors last season. The senior was Edmonds-Woodway’s top hitter and will be leading off the lineup.
Nguyen is a three-year starter, while Matulovich saw most of her action as last year’s designated player. Matulovich also might play first base when Daniel heads to the outfield. Junior Brooklynn Bailey then would take over at third base in addition to playing the outfield.
Five of the team’s eight juniors are returning starters: Lafferty, Orstad, Nguyen, Bailey and outfielder Sydney Forseth.
An injury has put senior outfielder Michelle Rumpel, one of the three captains along with Daniel and Orstad, on the sidelines for now. Rumple has been battling an ankle problem for a while and is scheduled to have surgery. If her recovery goes smoothly and without any complications, she might be able to return at the end of the season, Venable said.
With a strong returning pitcher and defense, the Warriors’ main focus is scoring more runs.
“We’ll need to improve on our hitting a little bit,” Venable said. “We had three players hit fairly consistently last year. We’ll see a couple more. That’ll help us quite a bit offensively and Katelynn will carry us as far as she can.”
From what he’s seen in practice, the Warriors appear to be hitting better, Venable said.
Edmonds-Woodway finished fourth in the Western Conference 4A South Division last year.
“We’d like to move up,” Venable said. “We’d like to be top three. I think that’s reasonable. I think we can do that.”