Forest Grove had another stellar softball season in 2012, but six all-league players will need to be replaced this year

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: CHASE ALLGOOD - Forest Grove softball players (from left) Karla Broderson, Mary Hutchins, Taylor Lira and Natalie Sydenstricker share a laugh after their victory over Jesuit in the second round of the 2012 state playoffs. The Lady Vikings will rebuild this year after losing six all-league players to graduation.For a program that has turned out its share of them, the 2012 season was another standout one for the Forest Grove softball team.

But the graduation of six all-league seniors from that squad and an infusion of inexperience make the 2013 season an intriguing one and a challenge to predict.

“We’re very young this year,” Forest Grove coach Trevor Tusow said of this year’s squad, which includes seven new starters and is partly made up of four sophomores and two freshmen.

“When you have a young team, no matter how talented they are, there’s going to be some bumps along the road and whatnot. But they’re great kids. They’ve played a lot of softball, just maybe not quite at the varsity level yet. We’re a team that’s growing.”

A year ago, the Vikings went 21-8 overall and 11-3 in the Pacific Conference, tying Tigard for second place and dealing league champion Glencoe one of its two losses in conference play. And in the quarterfinals of the 6A state playoffs, the Vikings pushed eventual state champion North Medford to the brink before falling 2-1 in 11 innings.

Ace Marissa Reichard earned Second Team All-State honors, and catcher Karla Broderson (third team) and outfielder Jorie Gronseth (honorable mention) also earned all-state nods.

But those three players graduated last spring, as did Taylor Lira, Allison Thorud and Natalie Sydenstricker. And another player, Taylor Schmitt, who played shortstop last season, decided not to come out this spring.

“You lose six seniors that were all contributors. That becomes the hard thing to replace,” Tusow noted. “How do you find out who’s going to step up and fill those roles? So that’s what we’re looking for in this year’s group.”

Tusow does welcome back senior left fielder Alexis Richey, and two more seniors in Molly Johnson and Iesha Johnson (not related), who split duties in right field a season ago.

Junior Shelby Turner, who gained some varsity experience on the mound a year ago, will draw pitching duties this season, as will sophomore Emily Peters, who pitched at the JV level in 2012. Both girls can also contribute at other infield positions when not pitching.

“They’re real versatile players, both of them,” Tusow said.

Other members of Forest Grove’s essentially all-new infield are third baseman Kira Hein — a senior who battled illness and injury last season — shortstop Sarah Hess, catcher Leena Silvis, and first baseman Siera Martinez.

The Vikings opened up the season last week by splitting games against Metro League opponents, losing 8-3 at home to Southridge and defeating Sunset 4-1 on the road. Their next home game is scheduled for Thursday, a 4:30 p.m. contest against Class 5A Sherwood.

“We set the goal of every day that we get better, that every day we walk off the softball field as better softball players than we were when we stepped onto it,” Tusow said. “The girls seem to have really bought into it, and they’re starting to really strive for that.”

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