NW Adrenaline helps prepare the next class of North Marion softball players for varsity competition

by: PHOTO COURTESY OF NEIL FORSTE - The 2013 NW Adrenaline softball team finished in fifth place or better at four tournaments over the course of the summer, including a season-best third place at the Just For Fun Tournament in Newberg in July. NW Adrenaline is led by former North Marion varsity softball coach Neil Forste and is comprised of mostly players from the North Marion junior varsity team, as well as Kelsie Henry from the Husky varsity team and several players from the surrounding areaSince 2007, the North Marion softball team has finished with double digit wins each year. The Huskies have stayed competitive in the Capital Conference, and recently the Tri-River Conference, despite playing against some of the best 4A teams in the state.

Much of the recent success can be traced back to a superb crop of young athletes who have been playing the game for years, long before entering high school competition. With the recent graduation of five starters from last spring’s team that fell to eventual-champion Banks in the first round of the state playoffs, the door is open for a new class of athletes to take over at North Marion for the 2014 season.

The 15 members of the NW Adrenaline 14U team have been hard at work all summer preparing for the coming school year. They look to have the inside track toward rounding out next year’s Husky team after taking part in a number of Amateur Softball Association (ASA) tournaments over the past several months.

The Adrenaline team is a first-year team comprised of players from the north Willamette Valley, though most of the girls come from within the North Marion School District, and many played for the Huskies’ junior varsity team last spring.

“Some of those kids are pretty standout kids,” said Adrenaline coach Neil Forste. “There are a few of them who would have been (playing varsity) if it wasn’t for those five seniors in front of them.”

Most of the athletes on NW Adrenaline are 14 or 15 — the girls can play 14U softball as long as they turn 15 after Jan. 1 of 2013 — but the team features players as young as 12 years old.

Forste entered the team in the summer tournament circuit this year as a way to prepare ambitious athletes for the type of competition they’re expected to see at the high school level. ASA features a number of club softball teams in the Willamette Valley in tournaments that go from spring through the beginning of August, but Forste said most North Marion players have to travel outside the county lines to sign up for tournament teams.

“There really is no place for these kids to go, unless they go down to Salem or go up to Beaverton, Portland, Oregon City or places like that,” said Forste.

Although the team features a number of athletes from the North Marion JV team, the Adrenaline roster also brought in several players who Forste said were natural athletes, but needed some experience before they were able to compete on a regular basis.

“It literally went from them having to learn the game,” said Forste. “You’re looking at kids at the beginning of the season and saying, ‘Wow, this kid’s got a long ways to go.’”

But after several months of practice and a busy summer of tournament play, Forste said the team has quickly turned around and has been competitive in June and July.

“Although they took some early bumps and bruises as they learned to compete, the team continued to push themselves to a higher level. Once June rolled around, the team had shown that they had not only learned what it was going to take to compete at this level, but they also figured out how to win,” he said.

Adrenaline opened the tournament season in June, several weeks after the high school season concluded in May. The team took fifth place out of 26 teams at the Buzz Tautfest Classic at North Marion High School on June 5, one of four tournaments where the team finished fifth or better over the course of the summer.

The team was led by incoming sophomore pitcher Micaela Harrington, who will be expected to compete with fellow sophomore Tori Harper for the starting position left vacant by Katlin Wampole’s graduation in June. Although Harper has an extra year of experience at the varsity level as one of two freshmen to make the team this spring, Forste expects Harrington to challenge her for the position.

“They’re two different styles of pitchers, and I think the varsity team could use both of them,” said Forste, who coached the Huskies for three years before resigning this summer. “Who knows what happens in the spring. One of them could jump over the other one. That’s the battle I’m watching right now. It’ll be interested to see how it works out.”

The Huskies will also have openings at second base, first base and two positions in the outfield in 2014. Although some of those positions will likely be filled by bench players from the varsity team, Forste expects several members of the Adrenaline team to contend for starting spots on the Huskies.

Ireland Mooney, Kelsie Henry, Corina Curths and Ally Umbenhower could all contend for starting varsity spots on next year’s team based on their play in summer tournaments this year, said Forste.

“It’s been pretty neat to watch (them) over the past month and a half, two months,” said Forste. “Now they’re excited about the fact that maybe they do have a spot on varsity.”

Regardless of who makes next year’s cut and who will play at the JV level, Forste expects the team to be back in 2014 to bump up to the 16U level, with hopes that he can expand the program enough to field a second team at 14U as well.

“It’s a good group of kids,” said Forste. “All I can say (to the kids) is let’s prepare you. Go ahead and do the best that you can and let the chips fall.”

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