Hillsboro roster will feature four freshmen and five sophomores

Probably no one would like to see the Hillsboro softball program succeed more than Mike McCallen.

And not just because McCallen is the Spartans’ head coach. Now in his second year leading the team, McCallen is a Spartan for life. The 1973 Hilhi graduate works at school volleyball and basketball games when he is not busy with his softball duties or working his day job at Clear Water Services.

“I’m one of these people that when I start bleeding, I’m bleeding blue,” McCallen said earlier this month after his Spartans hosted city rival Liberty in both teams’ second game of the season.

McCallen has been involved in the Hilhi softball program for a number of years, but 2012 was his first season as the varsity head coach. Undoubtedly, it was a rough year for the Spartans, who went 3-23 overall, were winless in the Pacific Conference, and had the dubious distinction of being ranked 43rd out of 43 Class 6A teams at season’s end.

But with a corps of returners from last year’s squad and the addition of several promising freshmen, McCallen thinks the program could be moving in the right direction.

“We’re so young, and so what we’re going to be able to do is really find where people fit and hopefully next year this team will really come together where we’ll mesh,” McCallen explained.

Just how young are the Spartans? Of the 13 players listed on the varsity roster, only one is a senior, while the team includes four freshmen and five sophomores. And the youth movement carries into the junior varsity program as well. Of the 28 players in all who turned out for softball this year, nearly half are freshmen, McCallen estimated, which he described as exciting.

“Because you can see what you might be able to do in the next couple years, and then the eighth grade’s got a good group of girls, too,” he explained. “Things look a little hopefully brighter for the Spartans.”

On the varsity, McCallen pointed to pitchers Kelly Royster and Emalyn Weislogel, catcher Erika Goonan and third baseman Tiff Demezas, all sophomores and juniors, as top players. And he tabbed Madison Staub at second base, and outfielders Cheyanne Seeley and Eileen Vasquez as three freshmen to watch.

The Spartans are still looking for their second victory of 2013 after winning their season opener against Lake Oswego. After that, Hilhi suffered losses to Liberty, Sprague, David Douglas and Reynolds, though the squad came close to a second win after taking a 4-0 lead against the Olympians before falling 6-4 in eight innings.

The next two chances come today and tomorrow in games at Hermiston. The Spartans will then finish non-conference play next week with contests against Milwaukie, Parkrose and Beaverton.

“I think this could be a real good building year,” McCallen said. “We weren’t something last year. This year at least we can be a little competition for other teams and … show that we can play ball like we should.”

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