Glads figure to be in the hunt

Most of last year's team returns intact

GLADSTONE - Defending Class 4A softball champion Cascade, which swept its league series with Gladstone last year, has moved on to a different league. And Gladstone coach Bruce Mortier says he believes his Gladiators have a good chance of regaining the league championship, which they won for three straight seasons prior to last year.

'Madras is supposed to be pretty good,' Mortier said. 'They went to the playoffs in 5A last year. But, without Cascade and Stayton, we should be right up there. I think it will be between us and Madras, then North Marion in third, followed by La Salle and Molalla. Estacada will struggle.'

The Gladiators have graduated 2010 Capital Conference Player of the Year Bailie Foxworthy (shortstop), who set a school record with 56 stolen bases last season. And they've graduated first-team all-conference pitcher Megan Alexander.

But they return most of the rest of last year's team intact.

Catcher Ashlee Muller, who earned first-team all-conference recognition last year as a freshman, returns.

Senior Jessica Jarrett, who shared pitching duties with Alexander a year ago, is also back. And she'll be battling freshman Nena Dudley for time on the mound.

'Nena is a very good ball player,' said Mortier. 'At least for right now, Nena and Jessica will both pitch. And Nina will play shortstop when she's not pitching. She'll be on the field somewhere. She's that good.'

Junior Magan Dean, a second-team all-conference selection, returns to start at first base. Junior Amanda Curtis is back in centerfield, where she gained second-team all-conference recognition as a sophomore.

Junior Ashley Martin, another second-team all-conference selection, moves from the outfield to start at second base.

Senior Elise Breshears, who started at second last year, will start at either shortstop or third base this season.

Junior Llexi Baker, who also has starting experience from a year ago, will see starting action at third or in the outfield this spring.

'We'll miss Bailie [Foxworthy],' said Mortier. 'You can't replace somebody like her. But Nena's pretty good on the bases. She bats left-handed and she'll probably be our lead-off.'

Rounding out the Gladiator roster are: senior Alexis Smith (outfield); junior Maria Campos (outfield); sophomores Tylar Wilson (utility) and Katie Manley (pitcher/infield); and freshmen Erica Ward (utility), Fiona Burrell (outfield) and Meghan Winkle (utility).

The Gladiators will find out how they stack up with the White Buffaloes in a hurry. They travel to Madras on Monday, April 11, and they entertain the White Buffaloes on Friday, April 15.

The Gladiators host Rainier in a doubleheader Saturday at noon in their final tune-up for Tri-Valley Conference play.

They open conference play with two games with Estacada, playing at Estacada on Tuesday, April 5, and hosting the Rangers on Thursday, April 7.