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New faces abound for Banks softball

Braves will welcome a first-year coach and several new players

No, you don’t need your eyes checked: That really is a very different Banks softball team taking to the diamond this spring.

The Braves’ lineup has been remarkably similar the past couple seasons, but six seniors — including five all-state players — graduated off of last year’s Class 4A state runner-up squad. And while the coach who will be standing in the box along third base is not entirely new, he isn’t the same one who stood there last year either.

“We’ve jumped in quick,” new head coach James Wise said. “We’re returning about six varsity players from last year, but only ... four of them were full-time starters on the team. So we’re definitely young.

“We’ve got two freshmen on the squad this year that are helping us out, and so really it’s just trying to get these girls to come together as a unit and kind of find their groove with one another.”

Wise takes over for former longtime head coach Jenny Compton, who took the Braves to two state titles during her tenure but stepped down over the offseason. Wise is a familiar presence in the program, however, as he assisted Compton last spring.

He has a couple of great middle infielders who will make up the core of this team in shortstop MaKenna Partain and second baseman Mary Schorn. Partain is a two-time state player of the year and has signed with Minnesota. Schorn returns for her third year as a starter after earning second team all-state honors in 2015.

Wise said he has asked Partain to step into a more prominent leadership role and essentially be his eyes and ears out on the field.

The Braves also welcome back another starter in the infield, but Emma McCourt should be switching from first base to handle most of the pitching duties. Wise says that the junior throws hard and has worked on her consistency and offspeed pitches.

“We’ll go with Emma as long as we can,” Wise said. “It’s kind of her spot to either maintain or relinquish, but she’s worked hard this offseason. Her consistency seems to have been a lot better than what it was last year.”

That being said, three other pitchers could see time in the circle. They are freshmen Michaela Shaw and Kaylin Hernandez, and junior Katie Ragsdale.

With McCourt moving into the circle, senior Gabby Eckhardt steps up to the first base bag and Alyssa Rogers will play opposite her at third base. Rogers saw time there last year when former Banks standout Kindel Bailey had conflicts with track and field — Bailey won the state title in the javelin last year.

“I’ve coached Alyssa since ASA, and so I’m incredibly confident in her abilities to hold that position down and do what we need to do to protect against the short game that the teams in our league like to put on us every once in a while,” Wise said.

Shakayla Snyder mostly backed up former all-stater Madison Soper at catcher in 2015, but she has a lot of experience at the position. Freshman Hannah McCourt is also an option there, and Wise said both she and Snyder hit well, so each should be in the batting lineup even when not catching.

The head coach was pleased to point out the speediness of his outfield. His daughter Keegan Wise will patrol center field in her second season as a starter. She earned an honorable mention all-state nod a year ago. Mackenzie Davis and Ragsdale should handle play in right and left field, respectively.

The Braves got in just one game during a wet first two weeks of play, but their schedule will pick up in a hurry this week. They were scheduled to travel to Corbett on Tuesday (results unavailable at press deadline). On Saturday, they have a doubleheader scheduled against Yamhill-Carlton and two-time reigning state champion McLoughlin in Milton-Freewater.

“That will be our early test right there on exactly how this is all coming together,” James Wise said.