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Wolves looking to step up

SOFTBALL: Tualatin, with big shoes to fill this season, hopes that hard work will pay off
by: JAIME VALDEZ, SUPER AT SHORT – Tualatin junior Jordan Skinner (left) returns to give the Wolves stability in the infield and speed on the basepaths.

TUALATIN - The Tualatin High School softball team has some big shoes to fill this year.

Among those lost to graduation are Lauren Grill and Carlyn Re, who both are playing Division I college softball now. Grill, in fact, was the 2006 state Player of the Year.

But, the Timberwolves are going to work hard to fill those shoes.

'We have a really nice bunch of girls here,' Tualatin coach Dan Roisom said. 'They're working hard and I think good things will happen.'

The Wolves do have some key returnees back from last year's squad that tied for second in the Pacific-9 Conference standings with a 13-3 record while putting together an overall mark of 23-5.

Among those returnees is senior pitcher Bethany Dempster, who was a first-team all-league pick last year. She'll combine with senior Hannah Buschert, who was a first-team selection in 2005, to give Tualatin a strong pitching attack.

'Our pitching should be strong,' Roisom said.

At catcher, the Wolves will have junior Emily Tietje and senior Natalie Taylor, who will also play in the outfield. Last year, Taylor was a first-team all-league pick as an outfielder.

Leading the infield will be junior shortstop Jordan Skinner, who also is a returning first-team all-league pick.

'Skinner and Taylor can both play at the next level,' Roisom said.

At first base, Tualatin has junior returnee Janelle Cromie, who earned second-team all-league honors last year. Junior Danielle Roisom, who is back from a shoulder injury, will be at second base. Sophomore Kirstie Lerum will be at third base. She started there the last part of 2006.

In the outfield, the Wolves will have junior Amelia Bywater, senior Brittany Reichard, senior Rachel Manhart and junior Gina Rawls. Freshman Meaghan Cichoke will also see time in the outfield as well as at catcher.

'I think the strength of this group is going to be our speed and our defense,' Roisom said.

The Wolves also have a strong tradition to fall back on. In the past four years, Tualatin has put together a 60-4 record in league play. The Wolves also haven't lost a home league game in four years.

'We'll try to hold our serve at home,' Roisom said. 'We're going to have to battle to get into the playoffs.'

As for the Pacific Conference this year, Roisom says there should be plenty of competitive games.

'The league is going to be really tough,' he said. 'I'd have to give the nod to Canby, Tigard and McMinnville. Forest Grove should also be tough.'

Tualatin opens league play today (Thursday) when it hosts Forest Grove at 5 p.m.