The departure of Gonzales and Meeuwsen paves the way for North Marion's youth movement
The beginning of the 2014 spring softball season looked like a classic rebuilding scenario for the North Marion Huskies.
They had lost a number of talented seniors from last years team that advanced to the first round of the playoffs, and this years squad featured more sophomore players than all the other classes combined.
It was a classic recipe to win a few games this year, build experience at the varsity level and make a run at the state playoffs in each of the next two years. But all that flew out the window when spring training opened in March.
As soon as I saw them on the first day of practice, I thought, Oh, we can do better than just win a few, said first year head coach Rachel Camp.
Behind the stellar play of three top tier upperclassmen combined with a young team that was experienced beyond their years, the Huskies finished third in conference, advanced to the state playoffs for a second straight year and ended the season with a 16-10 record. Despite having a younger team, the 2014 North Marion team was arguably better than last years team.
And it showed in the postseason awards as six Huskies received all-conference recognition, three of which Brandi Bowling, Michaela Meeuwsen and Kylie Gonzales went on to make the 4A All-State Team.
The teams only two seniors, Meeuwsen at shortstop and Gonzales at third base, each made the All-State Second Team and the Tri-Valley First Team, giving the Huskies one of the most dominating left sides of the infield in Oregon.
It was phenomenal, said Camp. I got them on board at the beginning as captains and gave them some ownership.
The two responded in kind, leading the team by example and getting the Huskies on board at the beginning of conference play to make sure the rest of the team knew that a run at the playoffs was a real possibility.
By the end of the season, opposing coaches took notice too, naming Meeuwsen Co-Player of the Year. Camp chalks up the award to her defensive skill, noting that she was a part of 12 double plays during the season and was able to protect a range of field from near third base all the way out to short right field.
The area she can cover is ridiculous, said Camp. The ease of which she plays is impressive to a lot of the coaches, so they honored her with that.
Gonzales earned Player of the Year honors in 2012 and was one vote shy of repeating last year. Her accurate and powerful throws from third base, ability to quickly field bunts and the home run threat she represents with each at bat has made her one of the best infielders in the conference in her tenure at North Marion.
But as good as Meeuwsen and Gonzales were this season, they may have been surpassed by Bowling, the junior field general behind the plate who moved from the outfield last year to catcher this season and became North Marions only First Team All-State player in school history.
Camp had an idea that Bowling would excel in the move to catcher, knowing that she played the position during summer. Camp is also an assistant coach for the volleyball team and was able to see Bowlings court vision as a libero.
Her court sense and her game knowledge of volleyball very easily translated to how good she would be as catcher, Camp said.
Bowlings offensive numbers this season were eye-popping, with a .589 batting average to go with 21 steals and 13 RBIs. But it was her presence behind the plate that made Bowling the best catcher in the state at the 4A level.
If she knows that her fielders are out of position, she can pull them in, she has the freedom to control the field unless I say something different, Camp said, adding that Bowling would call all the pitches and was a dangerous threat on pick-off attempts as well. It was very nice to have a catcher who could call the game and one who has such fantastic softball knowledge.
While the teams big three players did the heavy lifting this season, the Huskies wouldnt have gone as far as they did without the teams excellent stable of sophomore players. Outfielder Corina Curths joined Bowling, Gonzales and Meeuwsen on the Tri-Valley First Team, and pitcher Micaela Harrington earned Second Team honors. Tori Harper received an Honorable Mention nod as a utility player, giving the Huskies a solid core of players ready to step into the void left by the teams two departing seniors.
I feel really good about next year, said Camp.
2014 North Marion softball awards
Michaela Meeuwsen, senior, infield: Tri-Valley First Team, Tri-Valley Co-Player of the Year, 4A All-State Second Team
Kylie Gonzales, senior, infield: Tri-Valley First Team, 4A All-State Second Team
Brandi Bowling, junior, catcher: Tri-Valley First Team, 4A All-State First Team
Corina Curths, sophomore, outfield: Tri-Valley First Team
Micaela Harrington, sophomore, pitcher: Tri-Valley Second Team
Tori Harper, sophomore, utility: Tri-Valley Honorable Mention