Smallwood is optimistic about softball team


New Sandy softball coach Laurie Smallwood enters the 2007 season with plenty of optimism.

The first-year coach thinks her unit is a pretty complete one overall.

'We really don't have any holes,' she said.

Smallwood is particularly high on a talented group of hitters.

'Honestly,' she said, 'they're all really consistent. I think it's going to make us really tough, because you're not going to be able to pitch around us.'

Smallwood will rely on juniors Annie Hicks and Brittany Isaacs to provide plenty of power hitting.

And defensively, Smallwood hopes for big things from southpaw pitcher Courtney Brown, a junior who will also play shortstop.

'I think Courtney Brown is our most solid shortstop,' Smallwood said, while adding that junior Cheryl Neumann will also see a lot of action at shortstop.

'I think she's going to be really solid for us there,' Smallwood said of Neumann.

If the Pioneers have one noticeable weakness, it might be slap bunting.

'My goal is to teach everybody to slap bunt,' Smallwood said. 'That's something only a couple people on the team from last year did. I'd like to be able to make sure everybody knows how and is proficient. That gives you a lot more depth defensively.'

Other key contributors for the Pioneers in 2007 look to be centerfielder Stephanie Mallory, a sophomore, and jack-of-all-trades Kayla Opperman, a senior who is probably the tallest pitcher on the team.

The squad is a pretty close-knit unit, all things considered, and that bodes well for the girls this season.

'They like to have a lot of fun,' Smallwood said. 'They cut up a lot, they like to make fun of each other. But they take it well. I think that they've played together a long time, which definitely adds to their camaraderie.'

Standing in the Pioneers' way will be top-notch conference opponents Barlow and Centennial.

But Smallwood isn't fazed, and she thinks her pitching unit - led by Brown - can present some real problems in a fairly tough Mount Hood Conference.

'For softball, pitching really is a big deal,' she said. 'If you've got a good, solid pitcher - you're going to be successful. If you're weak pitching, you're going to have a long season. It's the nature of softball. The field's so close.'