Despite back-to-back losses in the OSAA Class 4A state championship quarterfinals, the Madras High School softball program will be primed to make an even deeper run next season.
>How I See It, By Joe McHaney
This year, not a lot of people expected the White Buffalos to win the Tri-Valley Conference. But, this group of talented players that loses just four players to graduation will likely make a strong push at a state championship next year due to a junior class that's loaded with talent.
Over the past three years, girls basketball has been the most successful Madras High athletic program, but the MHS softball program is next in line with consecutive TVC regular-season championships and trips to the 4A quarterfinals.
The softball program has been building steam ever since Maycee Abendschein ripped a walk-off home run in the opening round of the Class 5A playoffs in 2010 against Crescent Valley. The White Buffs lost in the second round, but since then, Madras has gone 41-15 with four post-season victories and could be in line for more post-season wins next year.
The program graduates four seniors from its roster - TaSheena George, Cheyenne Parsons, Victoria Spino and Raylene Jones. All four are tremendous young adults and their loss in the program will sting, but the White Buffalos retain most of their starting lineup, including junior pitchers Jamie Moe and Natalie Martin.
Both Moe and Martin should see all-state recognition this year, and if healthy, will surely garner state recognition next year. Those two are surrounded with talent such as catcher Caitlin Hulsey (junior), first baseman Sarah Brown (junior) or shortstop Shelby Mauritson (freshman). Those girls can carry this program to the quarterfinals next year and perhaps even further.
MHS head coach Shawna McConnell was named the TVC Coach of The year last season and once again did a fantastic job this year in what some called a rebuilding year. McConnell has firm control of a program that's established itself in Class 4A as a top-10 team year in and year out.
What's exciting for the program is that next year could be special and more help is on the way after next season. There is a group of Little League softball players that are next in line to shine. They're skilled and energized by what's going on in a program that's also turning out small-college players each year.
The MHS softball program is in good shape right now and it is fun to watch. Attending games is exciting because of the energy and environment that McConnell has created. This program has also had a flare for dramatic games in recent years, and over the past three seasons, has fielded quality, talented teams that have given the White Buffalo faithful something to cheer about.
One thing is for sure in high school sports -- nothing is guaranteed -- but this group has potential and talent. They're experienced and awesome kids that are on the verge of breaking down the quarterfinal wall for what could be a game in June. And, the only way you play in June is for the Class 4A state championship.