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Tigers are young and optimistic

Softball: Tigard, with new coach Gary Edwards, looks to earn a Class 6A state playoff berth
by: DAN BROOD, SUPER SHORTSTOP — Senior Heidi Pizer (left), shown here in a game last year, returns at shortstop for the Tigard High School softball team. She already has hit three home runs so far this season.

TIGARD - The Tigard High School softball team looks like it just might have a lot going for it this season.

For one thing, the Tigers have an abundance of young, enthusiastic, talented players.

But the Tigers also have some proven veterans, including standout senior who already has her college softball future planned out.

Add in to all of this a new, optimistic coach in Gary Edwards and things certainly seem to be looking up for Tigard this season.

'We're excited,' Edwards said. 'We're real young. We're going to have some freshmen playing some key roles, but everyone is playing real well so far.'

'Things keep looking up,' Tigard junior pitcher Ashley Suter said following a Tiger victory earlier this season. 'We're all working together. I think we're going to have a successful year.'

Suter is one of the key returnees from last year's Tigard team that put together an overall record of 13-12 while finishing fifth in the Pacific Conference standings at 5-10.

Among the top players back from last year's Tigard team is senior shortstop Heidi Pizer, who has already signed a letter of intent to play college softball at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

Last year, as a junior, Pizer earned second-team All-Pacific Conference honors. Pizer is off to a red-hot start to her senior season as, coming into this week, she was 11-for-16 at the plate with three home runs.

Sophomore Chelsea Biglow returns at third base for the Tigers. Last year Biglow was a first-team all-league selection as a freshman.

Freshman Maddie Miller will play at second base. Senior returnee Meredith Masters will play at first base.

Suter will be in her first year as clear-cut No. 1 pitcher for the Tigers. Last year, when she was a second-team all-league pick as a utility player, Suter shared pitching duties with since-graduated Katie Alexander.

Sophomore Katie Aden could also see some time pitching for Tigard.

Freshman Kelsey Kaelin takes over at catcher for the Tigers.

The outfield will be anchored by Aden, who will likely play in center field and bat in the leadoff spot.

Junior returnee Krista McCord will play in left field while freshman Erin Nyberg will be in right field.

Senior Lyndsey Bidwell will also see action in the outfield, as will junior Paige Morrow.

Tigard, with its youth and talent, will be looking to get back into the state playoffs after missing out on postseason play the past three seasons.

'Our goal is to make the playoffs,' Edwards said. 'If we continue to play like we can, we should be OK. We've got a good group of athletes, they get along real well and they're a fun group to coach.'

Getting to the playoffs won't be easy out of the Pacific Conference, which includes defending league champion McMinnville and defending Class 6A state champion Forest Grove.

'You have to pick McMinnville,' Edwards said. 'And Forest Grove has a lot back. I know Tualatin will come up with something and Canby is always real good.'

The Tigers opens Pacific Conference play Monday when it hosts McMinnville in a game starting at 5 p.m.