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Young but experienced Cowgirls ready for season

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by: LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Santana Reece practices her position during infield work at a recent practice.

The Crook County High School softball team finished last season with a 5-9 league record and a 12-11 overall mark.
   "I was told that it was the first winning season we have had in Crook County," said Head Coach Tom Decker. "And we lost five one-run games last year. We were competitive last year and this year should be even more so. We've only got three seniors on our team and four juniors. The rest are sophomores and we've got one freshman. So we are young, but we are not inexperienced. These kids have played a lot of softball and so I expect us to be real competitive this year."
   For the first time in school history the team had to cut players.
   "We had to cut nine kids, which was painful for us," said Decker. "We are hoping that we can get those kids back next year because they are just great kids. We want to run three teams. What we would like to do is have a JV1 and a JV2 team. We tried to do that this year, but we didn't get enough interest from other teams because they already had their schedules set up."
   Led by Santana Reece,a first team all-league selection a year ago at catcher, the Cowgirls return a team with a great deal of experience.
   "Santana is just a tremendous defensive catcher," said Decker. "Her offensive numbers were down a little bit last year, but she is working real hard to do better at that."
   The team will carry three pitchers including senior Kelsey Casey who has been working on a screwball in the off-season, and according to Decker has a great off-speed pitch. Bre Crakes will also be pitching and was a second team all IMC selection a year ago who not only is an outstanding pitcher, but according to Decker is a great hitter.
   The Cowgirls third pitcher is sophomore Emily Gannon.
   "I mean this kid plays everywhere," said Decker. "She is a gifted athlete and she can play everywhere for us except catcher."
   The rest of the Cowgirls team includes Sammi Verity at first base, Kaitlyn Duncan at second, Brooklyn Walker at third, outfielders Casey George, Josie Verity, Sydney Waite, Mantana Reece, first baseman, TaNeshia Fulton, and freshman Paige Buswell.
   "We are at the point where we don't have a weak kid on our varsity team," said Decker. "In fact we've got kids on our JV team that could start on a lot of IMC varsities. The challenge is going to be finding playing time for all our players. We can't hurt ourselves by putting somebody in the ball game and we are excited about that."
   The Cowgirls are expected to be an exciting team to watch with a lot of left-handed batters, and some players who hit with power they are expected to score a lot of runs.
   "Just come out and see these young ladies play," said Decker. I think you will be amazed at their skill level. Our expectations are high. We want our kids to play not only to their potential, but we hand them to play as hard as they can, and have fun. Both the varsity and JV teams have tremendous kids and we have great parent support so we are looking forward to a very successful season."
   "This team is going to be very successful if they don't take any teams lightly," added JV Coach Jack Layton.