The Tigard softball team has both proven veterans and talented newcomers
TIGARD - Experience.
Youth. Pitching. Defense. Hard-hitting offense. Team chemistry.
The Tigard High School softball team seems to have some of all of those elements going for them heading into the 2011 season.
'These kids have been working hard and they all get along and play well together,' Tigard coach Gary Edwards said. 'On defense, we can be pretty good, and our pitching will be stronger.'
The Tigers also have some key players back from last year's squad that placed second in the final Pacific Conference standings an 11-4 while going 16-8 on the season.
Among the key returnees is senior catcher Kelsey Kaelin. Last year, as a junior, Kaelin earned first-team all-Pacific Conference honors and she also was a Class 6A all-state third-team pick.
Kaelin is off to a late start to the softball season due to Tigard's long girls basketball season and also with her being selected to play in this Saturday's Northwest Shootout all-star basketball game.
Sophomore Anna Warren has been filling in at catcher for the Tigers.
Tigard's infield will be anchored by another key returnee in senior shortstop Erin Nyberg, who also was a first-team all-league pick a year ago.
In the outfield, Tigard has yet another first-team returnee in junior Jessica Lemieux. The left-handed Lemieux, who played in right field last year, moves to center field this year. She also provides both speed and power to the Tiger offensive attack.
Tigard also returns junior pitcher Bailey Hare, who also was a first-team all-league pick last year.
The Tigers also have back their other pitcher from a year ago, sophomore lefty Shayna Curtis. She should see action at first base when she's not pitching.
'We have quite a few good returning kids,' Edwards said.
Tigard also has some talented younger kids who could have an immediate impact, including a pair of freshman - Lexi Carter and Kelsey Downing - who could start for the Tigers.
'They're both really, really fast,' Edwards said.
Carter will be at second base and she also could see some action at shortstop. Downing will play in right field and she also could play some at second.
Junior Kristin Nunn takes over at third base for the Tigers.
'Defensively, she's pretty good,' Edwards said. 'And she's hitting the ball well.'
Senior Jalen Yocum should see action in left field for the Tigers. Warren could see time in the outfield for Tigard, as could junior Monica Hayes, sophomore Hannah Bailey and junior Cynthia Schuh, who also could pitch some for the Tigers.
Senior Mary Chabreck could see action at second base, third base or at designated hitter.
As for the Pacific Conference this season, Edwards sees two of the league's newcomers, Glencoe and Century, who met up in last year's Class 5A state championship game, as maybe being the teams to beat.
'They're both pretty good,' he said. 'Glencoe is really good. They're probably the favorite. Tualatin is good, Newberg is getting better every year, Forest Grove should be good again and McMinnville is improved.'
And don't count out Tigard.
'It might take us some time to get things together,' Edwards said. 'But if we don't dig ourselves a huge hole, we can play with anyone.'
Tigard opened its season Monday by rallying from an early 4-0 deficit to post an 8-4 win over Sprague in a non-league game played at Sprague High School.
Lemieux had a home run in the victory while Yocum, Chabreck, Nyberg and Downing each doubled.
'We came back and hit the ball well,' Edwards said.
Tigard's scheduled game at Jesuit on Tuesday was postponed due to rain. The Tigers were slated to host Westview in a non-league contest on Wednesday. Results of that game weren't available when the Times went to press.
Tigard will be back in action today (Thursday) when it plays at Southridge at 5 p.m.