The Meadowdale softball team still is a work in progress.
Even with the return of five seniors, including four in the infield, the Mavericks expect the 2008 season to be marked by highs and lows.
“We’re probably still in a learning process,” said second-year coach Dennis Mallory. “The girls have got a great attitude. I think you’re going to see our inexperience game to game. We’ll have good games and bad games.”
The Mavericks’ first two league games illustrate the point.
Meadowdale opened with a solid effort in a 3-1 loss to district rival Edmonds-Woodway on March 18 but then followed up with a 12-0 loss to Jackson on March 20. The Mavericks led the Warriors 1-0 until the bottom of the sixth inning when Edmonds-Woodway staged a rally. Meadowdale actually outhit the Warriors 6-5. But against three-time defending league champion Jackson, the Mavericks only mustered one hit.
A major challenge for Meadowdale is that only about half of the squad plays softball on outside teams, Mallory noted. The numbers, however, have been increasing.
Potentially, the biggest area of improvement might be pitching with the return of sophomores Brittney Wold and Hailey Helm and senior Courtney Ball. The three rotated throughout 2007.
“They’re going to keep us in the game,” Mallory said. “If we can play like we should behind them, then we might make it interesting. … I expect us to get a lot better as the season goes along.”
Wold is a lefthander with an assortment of pitches in her arsenal. Helm is a righthander who also throws a variety of pitches.
“They don’t have incredible speed, so they need to be smarter than the batter,” Mallory said. “They both have that ability. … Both threw surprisingly well as freshmen. We expect more out of them. They should see more time in the field. Both have got good bat speed and should be solid hitters.”
Ball tries to keep batters off-balance with her offspeed pitches, Mallory added.
Sophomore Jennifer Zenger is the new catcher. The infield is where Meadowdale is most experienced with four seniors. Alyse Wynar (third base), Blair Mills (shortstop), Stephanie Bernard (second base) and Margaret Betts (first base) should provide solid defense behind whoever is pitching. Mills played second, third and catcher last season, while the rest of the players are back in their respective positions from a year ago.
“Our infield works really well together,” Bernard said. “We communicate really well. Our infield is real tight.”
“It’s starting to come together,” Mallory added. “They’re making some plays. Our pitching is solid, but we can’t rely on 12, 13 strikeouts a game.”
The outfield doesn’t quite have the same experience as the infield but is coming together well with Kristy Nguyen, Nicole Goodland and Holly Shephard. All three have good speed, Mallory said.
Wold allowed only five hits and struck out eight batters in the loss to Edmonds-Woodway. All three runs were unearned.
“That’s the kind of potential that we’ve got,” Mallory said.
“This season I think we’ll be stronger than last year, especially our pitching,” Wynar said. “They had their freshman year to get the feel for it. They’ve come back better and stronger and more knowledgeable.”
Mills brings speed to the top of the Mavericks’ lineup. She and Nguyen are Meadowdale’s slap hitters. Look for the power to come from Wynar, Bernard and Betts.
Meadowdale, which finished near the bottom of the Western Conference South Division standings in 2007, won only four of 16 league contests. In many of those games, the Mavericks fell behind early.
“We struggled a lot in coming back,” Mills said. “If we’re behind we want to come back and pull ahead and hopefully get more wins than last year.”
The prospects for more wins are better, but the Mavericks still have plenty of work to do.
“We’re still in the process of rebuilding, but I think we’re going to be a lot stronger than last year,” Wynar said.
Coach: Dennis Mallory, second year.
Last season: 4-12 in the league, 4-15 overall.
Key players: Seniors Blair Mills (SS), Stephanie Bernard (2B), Alyse Wynar (3B), Margaret Betts (1B), Courtney Ball (P); sophomores Hailey Helm (P), Brittney Wold (P).