Tigers motivated, talented

SOFTBALL: Tigard is looking to earn a postseason bid in 2007
by: DAN BROOD, ONE-TWO PITCHING PUNCH – Tigard senior Katie Alexander will combine with Ashley Suter to give the Tigers a strong pitching combination this season.

TIGARD - Last year, the Tigard High School softball team saw its season end earlier than it wanted it to.

This year, with a big group of returnees, and some talented younger players, the Tigers are hoping to extend their season into the state playoffs.

'We return nine players, which includes the majority of our infield and our pitchers,' Tigard coach Connie Jolley said. 'We hope to be able to produce more runs this year, which we have accomplished in our preseason.'

The Tigers also seemed to be plenty motivated this season. That's because, last year, they just missed out on going to the state playoffs after finishing in fifth place in the Pacific-9 Conference standings with an 8-8 record (11-9-2 overall).

'The disappointment of last season motivated us for this year,' Tigard senior first baseman Elizabeth Sherman said after a game earlier this season.

Tigard looks to be strong when it comes to pitching. The Tigers boast what looks to be a strong combination in senior Katie Alexander, who was a second-team all-league pick, and sophomore Ashley Suter.

Junior Meredith Masters takes over the catching duties for this year. Sophomore Krista McCord will also see time at catcher.

Tigard returns its infield from a year ago intact.

That group includes junior shortstop Heidi Pizer, who was a first-team all-league infielder last year. Senior Erica Hansen, an honorable mention pick last year, will be back at second base. Suter, who also was an honorable-mention all-league pick last year, is back at third base and Sherman returns at first base.

Tigard also looks to be strong in the outfield.

Speedy senior Alex Tucker, a second-team all-league selection, will be back in center field for Tigard. Another returnee, senior Diana Hays, who was an honorable mention all-league pick, will be back in right.

Also in the outfield for Tigard will be freshman Chelsea Biglow, who already this season has shown she can be a factor for the Tigers on offense.

Also seeing some time in the outfield will be senior Erin Otto and junior Lindsey Bidwell.

Also returning for Tigard is junior Claire Kamery. She was an honorable mention all-league pick as an utility player last year.

'We have great chemistry and girls who work hard,' Jolley said. 'Offense has been a strength of ours throughout this preseason and we hope to keep that up.'

Tigard also looks to have strong leadership from its seniors.

'We have a special group of girls who have a lot of varsity experience and have played together for a long time,' Jolley said.

As for the Pacific Conference this year, Jolley sees a battle for the top spots.

'Every program is solid and with playing each other three times it adds a whole new dimension to everything,' Jolley said. 'We have high hopes of making the playoffs and know that to get there we have a tough road. As long as we keep getting better each and every day and learn from our mistakes along the way we should be in good shape.'

Tigard, which has an 8-2 record on the season, opens Pacific Conference play today (Thursday) when it plays at McMinnville in a 5 p.m. game.