Getting back on track
The last time Forest Grove hired a new softball coach, the Lady Vikings went out and won a state championship. Can lightning strike twice?
The Vikings sure hope so, and with former assistant coach Trevor Tusow stepping in to replace Ole Evenson, a five-year veteran who led the program to its first and only state title in 2007, the transition should be pretty smooth.
'I was hoping (Trevor) would get the job, and I'm glad he did,' said Evenson, who stepped down last spring because of increasing work commitments.
'My plan was to coach this year and next year, but it just got to be too much from a personal stress level. Last year's team was really good, and I felt like I let them down because I couldn't spend as much time with them as they deserved.'
Evenson was a rookie head coach back in 2007 when a young Forest Grove team caught fire and won five straight playoff games, culminating with a 5-1 victory over Central Catholic in the state championship game.
Tusow started as an assistant the following season, and his steady presence over the last four years, combined with a roster that returns all nine starters from 2011, should smooth the transition from one coach to another.
'He's got a lot of talent on that roster. It's pretty much all the same kids as last year,' Evenson said. 'Plus first-year coaches have a pretty good history at Forest Grove.'
Tusow inherits six returning seniors, including First Team all-league pitcher Marissa Reichard and second baseman Taylor Lira.
Reichard went 6-8 as a pitcher last season with a 2.14 ERA, and she also led the team with a .488 batting average and 17 extra-base hits.
'Obviously having Marissa back is huge for us,' Tusow said. 'She's been our starting pitcher since her freshman year, so she's got a lot of experience and we're really going to lean on her this year.'
Fellow seniors Allison Thorud, Natalie Sydenstricker and Karla Broderson were honorable mention all-league selections last year, and juniors Molly Johnson and Taylor Schmitt also earned league recognition.
Schmitt batted .333 last season with eight RBIs and the team's only home run, while Johnson batted .308 as a sophomore.
'It's been nice,' Tusow said of having so much experience on the roster. 'They already know so many things that they need to do. I'm really relying on their experience.
'The number of games our girls have played together other the years, it definitely gives us a nice foundation.'
Jorie Gronseth, the team's sixth and final senior, will return as the Lady Vikings' starter in center field, and juniors Alexis Richey and Kira Hein could also see some playing time in the outfield.
Tusow will also try to find some innings for sophomore pitcher Shelby Thurman, plus versatile sophomore infielder Mary Hutchens.
'I think one of our strengths is going to be our flexibility,' Tusow said. 'We have a lot of girls that can play a lot of positions, and that gives us the opportunity to move the girls around and give teams different looks.
'I feel like we have lots of potential because the girls have that flexibility.'
Prior to last spring, it had been two decades since Forest Grove failed to qualify a team for the state softball playoffs, but a sixth-place finish in the Pacific Conference and a play-in round loss to Westview left last year's squad on the outside looking in.
Tusow hopes to change that this season, although he predicts it will be another tough season in the Pacific Conference, where Century, last year's third-place finisher during the regular season, went on to win the Class 6A state championship.
'There are no teams in our league that will be easy games,' Tusow said. 'I really haven't looked that much at what other teams are doing yet, but it should be a tough league again this year.
'Our biggest goal is every day to get better. I know that sounds so cliche, but it's true. You want to be playing your best at the end of the season. If you're still playing in the second round of the playoffs, you're one hot streak away from winning it all.'
And that's something a first-year Forest Grove coach should know all about.