Senior-heavy Aloha the strong favorite in the 2013 Metro race

by: MILES VANCE - ALOHA LEADER - Aloha senior Kiana Wood was named Metro League Pitcher of the Year in 2012, and her Warriors are favored in the upcoming 2013 Metro softball race.

The Metro League will be good again in 2013, make no mistake about it.

But almost every softball team in the league got significantly younger this year — almost every team that is, except 2013 favorite Aloha.

The Warriors graduated just one senior (Ryan Patterson) from last year's Metro runner-up and state quarterfinalist, feature the league's top pitcher in senior Kiana Wood and enough experienced talent to rate a big thumbs-up from the league's other coaches.

“Aloha is the one team who did not graduate many players — one I believe — and they were strong last year,” said Beaverton coach Roni Illias.

“Aloha should be the favorite as they only lost one senior and they have strong pitching,” Westview coach Ronda McKenzie said.

“The odds-on favorite has to be Aloha,” agreed Jesuit's Jim Speciale. “And Southridge should be pretty good, but I think it's wide open after that.”

Like Speciale said, beyond Aloha, it's anybody's guess what will happen in the 2013 Metro League race.

“After Aloha, I think it's up for grabs,” said Southridge coach Wilbur Charters, whose team took the 2012 Metro crown.”Where the rest of us fall, I just don't know.”

“I think the league should be better this year,” added Aloha coach Steve Reynolds. “Beaverton will be a lot better because they have a better pitcher (senior all-leaguer MacKenzie Spencer who transferred from Southridge), and I think Westview should be up in there too. It should be an interesting race for the top three spots.”

Following are previews of the Metro League's six varsity softball teams.


ALOHA — Aloha was right there last year.

The Warriors were knocking on the door of a Metro League championship, and later knocking on the door in the state quarterfinals.

There's a lot of work yet to be done, but in 2013, Aloha may just kick that door down.

“We should be in the top three somewhere,” said Aloha coach Steve Reynolds. “The key right now is getting timely hits. If we hit, we'll be in the top three.”

This year's Aloha team returns four first-team all-leaguers in Metro Pitcher of the Year Kiana Wood, senior third baseman Katie Newton, junior shortstop/second baseman Michelle Silva and junior third baseman/first baseman Katie Buchanan, as well as second-teamer Alexa Bailey (a sophomore outfielder) and junior outfielder Ali Locke (honorable mention).

Wood “is looking OK. She's added a couple new pitches this year, and once she gets used to throwing them, she should do well,” Reynolds said.

Around the rest of the diamond, Aloha will call on freshman Mackenzie Sibert at catcher, sophomore Courtney Coombs and Buchanan at first base, Silva and freshman Taylor Clark at second, Silva and junior Shelby Radcliff (a transfer from Sherwood) at shortstop, and Newton at third. In the outfield, it will be Bailey in center field, flanked by Locke, junior Thalia Rojas, junior Miranda Hensley, junior Nika King, and junior Emily Powers.

Aloha has its challenges, though, notably an injury that's kept Buchanan from catching, Locke's shoulder injury, and a desperate need for new leadership.

“I'd like the seniors to step up and (lead) and I hope they will,” Reynolds said. Wood “is kind of a quiet leader (and) Katie Newton is starting to come on there.”


BEAVERTON — There were some highs and some lows in Beaverton's first year under head coach Roni Illias.

The biggest high included winning four of five games leading into Metro play; the biggest low was everything after that — the Beavers went 0-15 in league action and lost their Class 6A Play-In game.

Now, Beaverton is hoping to create a lot more of the former and a lot fewer of the latter.

“We should finish better than we did last season — there's nowhere to go but up,” said Illias. “This year, the girls seem hungry to do well and they have quickly come together as a team rather than just individuals.”

This year's team will be bolstered by the addition of senior pitcher MacKenzie Spencer — she was a first-team all-leaguer at Southridge last year — as well as the return of all-Metro players Emily John (a junior second baseman/outfielder who won first-team honors), senior Kristy Rutz (a first baseman/third baseman who made the second team), and junior Casey Wise (a pitcher/utility player who was named honorable mention).

“The girls all have a hand in making this years team 'successful,' which to us, means more than just winning games,” Illias said. “Our senior captains (Rutz and Spencer) have been very helpful to our staff this year.”

Around the diamond, the Beavers will also look to Wise at pitcher, sophomore Ione Gassner at catcher, Spencer at first base, junior Kaitlin Collins at shortstop, freshman Tatjana Schroeder at third, and freshman Mckenzie Miller, sophomore Cory Meyer, senior Nicole Almanza and John in the outfield.

Also due for varsity time are freshmen utility players Shelby Blasingame and Annie Wissmiller, and freshman pitchers Savannah Dickinson and Lexi Hamaker.


BEAVERTON — Jesuit is in the “maybe” zone.

Maybe its pitching will be good enough. Maybe its three seniors can provide enough leadership. And maybe the Crusaders can replicate last year's strong finish when they won their Class 6A Play-In game and then knocked off Central Valley Conference runner-up McNary in round one of the state playoffs.

“I think we'll be, not at the top, but maybe fighting for the two through four spots,” said Jesuit coach Jim Speciale. “It just depends on all the other teams.”

While this year's Crusader crew will be extremely young — seven of its 15 varsity players are underclassmen — there is talent on hand, led by senior Makaela O'Malley (a first-team all-leaguer last year), senior first baseman Jessica Wyatt (another first-teamer), junior catcher Emily Allen (a second-teamer) and senior center fielder Marissa Renda (another second-teamer).

“Our team leaders will be my three seniors,” Speciale said. “They've shown great leadership and they're working very hard.”

Unfortunately, junior pitcher Hailey Malin — a first-team utility player — injured her knee skiing and will likely miss the entire season. In her place, Jesuit will call on the freshman trio of Kory Oleson, Liv Knivila and Morgan Watson.

“Our pitchers will give up some runs so we'll need to play defense and score some runs,” Speciale said.

Around the rest of the lineup, the Crusaders will call on freshman Emily Preble at catcher, junior returner Kelsey Downey and Preble at second base, freshmen Victorya Stallworth and Erin Perry at third, junior returner Ali Schultheis in right field and sophomore McKenna Holmes and junior Cat Enger in right.

“There will be a real learning curve for our freshman pitchers,” Speciale added. “They're going to have to mature fast.”


BEAVERTON — Last year, Southridge won the Metro League with power pitching, power hitting, and yes, even more power.

But things have changed. The team graduated two of its big bombers — Metro Player of the Year Tori Gentile and Bailey Kasler — and saw their power pitcher (McKenzie Spencer) transfer to Beaverton. So this year, a still-talented but much younger Skyhawk team will take the field in search of a state playoff berth.

“I don't know where we'll finish but I think we can be competitive,” said Southridge coach Wilbur Charters. “We won't have the kind of power (we had last year) so we'll need to generate some runs, but so far, we've been able to do that.”

The cupboard's hardly empty at Southridge either, thanks to the return of four second-team all-leaguers including senior shortstop Shae Nelson, sophomore second baseman Sophie Herman, senior right fielder Britney Bradley and junior third baseman Kylie Kushiyama.

“The girls with experience will play a lot. They probably won't come out of the game,” Charters said.

There's more experience back too, in junior Erin Bonzer at catcher, junior Emma Kimball in center field, and sophomore Jenna Kelly at first base.

At pitcher, the Skyhawks will look to the freshman duo of Kalee Mabray and Morgan Penn, and their development will likely play a significant role in Southridge's success in 2013.

“They're young but they're pretty determined,” Charters said. “They're learning pretty quick and they're good kids. We'll rotate them in and try to keep teams off-balance.”

Southridge will also look to sophomore Sydney Jacobs and Penn at first base, to freshman Hayden Regalado at second, to junior Maddie Weaver and freshman Mahaila Nieslanik at third, and to sophomore Olivia Komin, freshman Kylie Myers and freshman Payge Brown in the outfield.

Also due for varsity time are sophomore Cheyleen Manibasian and junior Allie Nash.


CEDAR MILL — There's a youth movement going on at Sunset this year, but the Apollos are pretty confident that will eventually turn into a playoff MILES VANCE - SUNSET SENIOR - Sunset senior catcher Dakota Stewart and the Apollos hope to make a run at the Metro League title this seson.

Sunset's 2013 roster features five freshmen and sophomores among its 11 players, but the Apollos there's experience in part of that group and more talented experience back too. This year's lead will be led by senior catcher Dakota Stewart (first was first-team all league in 2012), junior third baseman/pitcher Jade Stewart (second team), sophomore second baseman Renee Crick (honorable mention) and sophomore shortstop Rachel Sather (honorable mention).

“Rachel Sather and Dakota Stewart both will be up in the lineup, they're both very good hitters and our strongest defensive players,” said Sunset coach Spencer Mills. And “Jade Stewart will be our No. 3 hitter, our big hitter and anchor at third base as well as supply innings at pitcher.”

The Apollos will look to freshman Anna ApRoberts at pitcher, freshman Maddie Jaekel at first base, freshman Alyssa Cooper at second, and in the outfield senior Katie Dierickx, senior Jacee Camper, junior Ashley Harrison and junior Brianne Bridge.

ApRoberts “has a lot of ASA experience and is getting better everyday,” Mills said. Her “maturity level is above her grade, and she has that competitive spirit we have seen in the past with Jessie Moore and the Miller sisters.”

And if the rest of the young Apollos develop quickly, Sunset might just have another strong year.

The “speed of Jacee Camper and hitting of Renee Crick will also help,” Mills said. “The key for us will be the development of our young kids. They have played with and seen some very successful sunset softball players the last couple years and they are working extremely hard to reach that level.”


ROCK CREEK — Westview is ready for a change.

It's been five long years since the Wildcats have finished higher than fourth in the Metro League and six since they won their last league title, but Westview is hoping to change at least one of those facts in 2013.

“Hopefully we'll do well,” said Westview coach Ronda McKenzie, the only softball coach in Wildcat history. “Having solid pitching helps us play better overall.”

That solid pitching will come this year from the youthful duo of freshman Abby Greer — She could be our “biggest impact player,” McKenzie said — and sophomore Brooke Harris. They'll be joined in key roles by all-league returners Christy Garrett, Makenah Roberts and Katie Whetstine. Garrett is a junior center fielder who won second-team all-Metro honors last year, while Roberts (a junior third baseman) and Whetstine (a sophomore catcher) both were named to the honorable mention team.

Other impact players this year will be senior first baseman Kelsey Day (the team's lone senior), junior shortstop Christina Uhl, sophomore second baseman Kylie Alto and freshman infielder/outfielder Jodeci Tuia.

“Our vocal leaders are Christina Uhl and Jodeci Tuia,” McKenzie said. They key for us this year will be “staying healthy at pitcher, playing good defense, and continuing hitting.”

The rest of the varsity lineup will include freshman infielder Jordin Lowman, sophomore Shannon Daly at first base, junior Devon Jordan and Tuia in left field, and sophomore Lexi Patino and Lowman in right. Daly and Harris also play outfield, and also due for varsity time are junior first baseman Brittany Carlson, freshman Kelsie Winters and freshman Kate Gilley.

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