Weather drives teams south
Most baseball and softball coaches will be happy to wave goodbye to rainy March and the postponements that came with it.
Many of the teams that have played enough games to take up the fingers on one hand had to travel out of state to do so.
'I'm feeling pretty good about playing seven games,' says Grant High baseball coach Rob Kennewell, who took his team to Peoria, Ariz., during spring break. 'We've played seven games, while Lincoln and Franklin have barely played one. That gives us a big edge.'
Some teams traveled to California or Florida to work on improving for the regular season that starts this week for the Mount Hood Conference. Portland Interscholastic League and Metro League games begin next week.
Grant won six of seven in Arizona and got to see some spring training games. It was the sixth time in seven years the Generals have gone to Arizona. Kennewell says he's taken teams to Florida and Las Vegas, as well.
Grant, looking for its first league title since 1991, got solid performances in Arizona from returning all-leaguers Matt Hibbitts, who hit .600, and John Fisher, who homered twice. And Kennewell says pitcher Andrew Anderson is the equal of Franklin star Jeff Pry.
Cleveland went 2-3 on a trip to San Jose, Calif., where junior Ry Kagen batted .500.
David Douglas traveled to Palm Springs, Calif., with Mount Hood favorite Barlow and went 1-2. The Scots got to practice on a field each day and travel throughout Southern California.
'You can learn a lot about teamwork when you get away from home,' coach Mike Fitz says. 'But we didn't answer too many of our questions on the field. We have a lot of guys who are at about the same skill level.'
David Douglas is led by returning starter and first baseman Marc Hamel.
One team that didn't travel, but still played six games, was Wilson, which has an infield tarp. Coach Mike Clopton says he feels fortunate to get in that many games without the expense of traveling. Trojan senior Mike Beechler had a hit in all six games.
SOFTBALL: Franklin is favored to win its third straight PIL title (and fifth in seven years) because it returns senior pitcher Holly Marlow. She was the PIL's player of the year last season, when she went 12-4. The Quakers are 1-3 this season.
Wilson, which won the PIL title in 1999 and 2000, traveled to Florida for six games, going 3-3. Centennial, Hood River and Sunset also traveled to Disney's Wide World of Sports complex for games. The Trojans are led by senior infielder Kelsea Clapper and junior pitcher Stephanie Hemmingson.
Cleveland's softball team, the league co-champ two seasons ago, got hurt worst of all in the first two weeks of games because it has a new coach in Tom McGriff and a bunch of new players. The Warriors didn't play one game.
'We've been able to practice indoors a lot, but that's not the same thing as a game,' says McGriff, who was the junior varsity coach the last two years. 'I'm not sure where we stand.'
The Warriors at least have a returning senior middle infield in shortstop Kelly Sandfort and second baseman Mariko Gordon as well as a senior catcher, Emily Anderson, and senior pitcher in Jocelyn Ham.
TRACK AND FIELD: Lincoln coach Benita Lloyd hopes her school will be able to host all 17 events when its PIL season begins Wednesday against Grant. The Cardinals are down in numbers, with about 80 athletes, but the problem is equipment, specifically, the pole-vault landing area.
The National Federation of High Schools is requiring larger landing pits this year for the pole vault, an event that has long challenged athletes and the administrators that insure them. The PIL is making larger landing pits for all its schools except Marshall, which had its landing pit replaced when a fire damaged the football bleachers and track equipment last summer.
Lloyd says that in 22 years of coaching, she's had only one problem with an athlete getting hurt in the pole vault, a boy who took off wrong and ended up with a fractured skull. The injury occurred while she was coaching at Roosevelt.
'It's definitely something that could be made safer,' she says. 'I don't have a problem with that.'
Notes: Central Catholic's all-purpose athlete, Nick Miller, has signed a letter of intent to play football at St. Mary's College in Moraga, Calif. Miller caught 62 passes for 1,017 yards as a senior and was the Mount Hood Conference's defensive player of the year. St. Mary's plays at the NCAA Division I-AA level and sold 529 season tickets last season, up from 44 in 2000.