by: Darrell Jackson, Sandy's head coach Laurie Smallwood watches Rebekah Degner practice bunting while preparing for the upcoming season.

Sandy softball just missed the playoffs last season and it left a nasty aftertaste in head coaches Laurie Smallwood.

'We were disappointed with last season,' Smallwood said. 'We missed the fifth spot and knew what we needed and it just didn't happen.'

Sandy finished sixth in the Mount Hood Conference last season at 4-12 and 7-18 overall and finished four games behind Gresham and Hood River.

Smallwood looks for her pitching depth to lead the Pioneers. Senior Courtney Brown and sophomore Holly Fenwick will lead the pitching staff. Throw in senior transfer Lindsey Freeman and returning senior Jamie Paul and Smallwood knows where her strength will be.

'Our pitching looks very strong and Courtney and Holly are a strong twosome. I've got three good pitchers with and Jaime returns after not playing last season,' Smallwood said. 'Our biggest problem is going to be putting hits together.'

Freeman will also play first base and Fenwick will split time at second base. Junior Stephanie Mallory, a first team all conference center fielder, returns with her team leading .438 batting average. Freshman Rebekah Degner also looks to help lead the offense this season.

'Our biggest problem is going to be stringing some hits together,' Smallwood said. 'I have some strong hitters that get hits once in a while, we just need to string a lot of those together to start some rally's.'

Smallwood said the team's attitude has been excellent and that the team has not quite jelled together yet and hopes to find their niche during the preseason games. When the conference season starts, Smallwood hopes to have the girls hitting on all cylinders.

'These girls have played together for a long time, then throw in four new kids to varsity and we are just looking to get everything together,' Smallwood said. 'As a coach, I would like to finish top three and I will be very disappointed if we don't make the playoffs.'

Sandy will have to battle defending Mount Hood Conference champion Central Catholic and second place finisher David Douglas. Smallwood knows that if everything works well, they can compete.

'If everything falls in to place, we could go undefeated or only two losses. I would be thrilled with a top three finish and a playoff spot.'

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