SOFTBALL: With talent and tradition on their side, the Kingsmen are preseason favorites in TRL softball
MILWAUKIE - With eight starters back from last year's team that tied Lake Oswego for the Three Rivers League softball title, the Rex Putnam Kingsmen should be a force in TRL softball this spring.
'I think we're stronger [than last season],' said Putnam third-year coach Tiffany Strnad. 'Most of these kids have been with me two or three years and they understand my philosophy and way of doing things.'
But Strnad cautioned, 'I think there's more consistency in this league from top to bottom. Lake Oswego's already lost [in league], and with us and Lake Oswego finishing on top last year, it makes it more appealing for people to step up their game and try to beat us.
'We got a taste of that [last Thursday] against Lakeridge. We didn't play very well and it was a game. We didn't score until the sixth inning. Hopefully we learned that we're going to have to come to play every day.'
With shutouts of Milwaukie (10-0) and Lakeridge (6-0) in last week's league openers, the Kingsmen improved to 4-1 on the yet young season.
They host Oregon City next Wednesday. The upstart Pioneers stunned Lake Oswego 9-3 in last week's league-opener.
The Kingsmen have plenty of talent in this year's lineup. Junior pitcher Lauren Harvey, a two-time first-team all-league selection, was last year's TRL Pitcher of the Year. Harvey fanned 19 batters, walked no one and scattered four hits in last week's games with Milwaukie and Lakeridge.
Harvey had 15 shutouts last year, as the Kingsmen finished with an 18-3 record in league.
The Kingsmen return another blue-chip player in junior Missy Eberhardt. Another first-team all-league selection, Eberhardt is seeing her third season of starting action at first base.
Second-team all-league selections Sami Parr and Jade LeBaron are back. Parr, a two-year starter at second base, has moved to shortstop; LeBaron has moved from left field to center.
Junior Ronni Sayres returns to catch and play third base. She garnered honorable mention all-star honors at catcher last season. She'll split time at catcher with junior Megan Hodson this spring.
Sophomore Emily Kirk, one of the league's top outfielders as a freshman, returns to start in right field.
Strnad has three talented players battling it out at second base. Senior Ariel Hayes and junior Chelsey Pingo both have varsity experience in the infield, but they are being pushed by junior Amber Ballou, who moves up from jayvee.
When Ronni Sayres isn't playing third, either Hayes or freshman Danielle Sayres will step in.
Danielle Sayres, senior Patty Blakley or sophomore Katie Bennett will play left field.
Hodson will DH when she's not catching.
'We're a lot stronger hitting team [over last year],' said Strnad. 'We've got more people who can hit the ball and we've got more power. We've already had two home runs [Hodson and Kirk].'
Parr had two doubles and four RBI, and Hayes hit a two-run double at Milwaukie; Hodson and Harvey both hit doubles at Lakeridge.
Hayes played a solid defensive game at Lakeridge, assisting on nine putouts.
The Kingsmen have more than talent and experience on their side as they battle for superiority in the TRL. They've got tradition. Putnam softball teams have won at least a share of the TRL title in 13 of the last 15 seasons.