Prep Watch • Last year's softball league leaders look strong again in 5A
The inside track on the PIL 5A softball title will go to the winner of Tuesday's Cleveland-Marshall game at Lents Park.
'There's no lack of excitement,' Marshall coach Steve Walmer says.
The teams split four games last year, but Cleveland took first with its 14-2 league record, a game ahead of the 13-3 Minutemaids.
Both teams look stronger this year. Cleveland returns all-league player Shauna Trussell and league pitcher of the year Kristin Breninger (15-1 as a junior) and welcomes back all-PIL pitcher Heather Greig, a senior who sat out in 2007. Marshall has its top three pitchers back in left-handers Emily Enders and Erin Hickernell and hard-throwing righty Samantha Edwards.
This year, the teams will play three times; Marshall has two home games in the series.
Cleveland's 2-3 preseason included a doubleheader split to Hidden Valley on the artificial turf field at Grants Pass High. The Warriors also return catcher Sarah Breninger, Kristin's younger sister; infielder Melaine Schoepp; and outfielder Mackenzie Wolfe. The Breningers, Greig and freshmen Leah Butters and Tanisha Bucher give coach Richard Breece five players who can pitch.
Marshall beat Franklin 4-2 and has a 6-2 preseason record. The Maids rely a lot on senior shortstop Shawndez Santiago, who also starred in basketball. 'A great ballplayer,' Walmer says. 'Basketball is her true love, but in softball she's so consistent.'
The Maids also have a capable outfielder in senior Samantha Bennett and a new catcher in senior P.D. Elwell, daughter of boys basketball coach Don Elwell and a transfer from Oregon City.
nThe potential spoiler in PIL 5A softball is Madison, which improved from 1-15 in the 10-team PIL of 2006 to 8-8 in the five-team 5A league last year.
'I don't think we'll be a doormat,' coach Don Papasadero says.
Three PIL 5A teams will make the state playoffs, and the Senators (2-2 in preseason) hope for at least the third spot, ahead of Jefferson and Roosevelt. Six freshmen join all-league pitcher Becky Blees and standout third baseman-shortstop Leah Wheeler, both juniors. Madison has lost all-league outfielder Rachel Kimball, though, to arm trouble that will keep her sidelined her senior year.
Wilson is gearing up for a run at its third straight league title. The keys are four games against PIL 6A rival Grant, and three of them are next week (Monday and Thursday at Grant, Wednesday at Wilson). The final meeting is set for May 5 at Wilson. Last year, Wilson won the league at 14-2, with Grant second at 11-5.
The Trojans are 5-2, with losses to Jesuit and St. Mary's of Stockton last week. Wilson has been on a lengthy road trip and posted a doubleheader sweep of Cathedral City in Palm Springs, Calif., along with a 3-2 win in the bottom of the seventh inning at Phoenix over Arapahoe of Colorado. Wilson will play at North Medford on Saturday in its final tuneup for the league season.
The Trojans have found a new ace in 6-3, 190-pound junior pitcher Stuart Fewel. He pitched six innings, and senior Gage Aker hurled the final frame, in a no-hitter against Benson during preseason.
'He's much stronger than he was last year, when he pitched on the JV,' Wilson coach Mike Clopton says. 'He's spent a lot of time lifting weights.'
The other starter in the Trojans' anticipated three-man rotation is junior Paul Erickson.