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Spring Sports Preview: Softball courts next trip to state
The BHS softball team begins its season without its best player. The starting shortstop is gone for the season due to a horrific auto accident.
Yet coach Liz McCloskey, now in her fifth year, exudes confidence. “Without a doubt we’ll get back to the state tournament,” she said. After winning Metro’s Mountain Division last year and placing second to Holy Names in the Metro Tournament, the Spartans advanced to state.
The Spartans lost their first game, battled back in the consolation bracket to win their next two, but lost again to fall out of trophy contention.
With a solid core of returning seniors, the chances of doing even better and improving on last year’s 26-5 mark appeared high. But center fielder Chelsie Kakela, Metro’s player of the year, suffered a severe ACL injury last fall. She’s been cleared to do light running and hit off a tee, but won’t be able to play for another month.
And Haylee Baker – the starting shortstop and second pitcher – suffered a broken neck in a car accident in February. While doctors predict a full recovery, she will miss the entire season.
“Losing them is hard to deal with,” said McCloskey. “This was supposed to be the year that things came together.
“I think the kids are ready to rise to the challenge. The girls are motivated and working hard. I’m lucky to have this senior class. And the freshmen have stepped right in.”
It helps that the starting battery returns intact. Pitcher Lindsay Willmann is a four-year starter. “She loves to pitch in big games,” McCloskey said. She’s also one of the team’s strongest hitters, usually batting cleanup. She plays first base when not pitching.
Fellow four-year starter Brittany Wisner is the catcher. “She’s a leader on and off the field,” McCloskey said. “She knows the game inside and out. She has a very aggressive bat.”
First base is likely to be on a platoon system, with freshman Tayler Greenfield and senior Victoria Wellbrock sharing time with Willman.
A pair of freshmen – Cali Moore and Hailey Willman – will share playing time at second. Willman will also spell her older sister on the mound.
At shortstop, four-year starter Cara Thompson will return to her normal position to replace Baker. Thompson played shortstop during her first two years, then moved to second last year.
Junior Lauren Reichert begins her second year at third base. “She has a great mitt,” McCloskey said.
With Kakela sidelined, the outfield is “jumbled,” McCloskey said.
Last year’s starting right fielder, sophomore Caitlin McCormick, is likely to move to center. Fellow sophomore Clara Dunn, an occasional starter last year, could hold down right field.
Junior Camille Moore is also in the mix. So are Wellbrock, Moore, and Hailey Willman.
With the luxury of a JV team again – the Spartans didn’t have one last year – McCloskey anticipates several players swinging back and forth between the two teams.
McCloskey sees West Seattle, which returns its two pitchers, and Holy Names as the Spartans’ chief Metro League rivals.
The Spartans open their season at Franklin next Tuesday, the first of three straight road games that week.
The home opener is Monday, March 23, against Cleveland. Perhaps the most crucial part of the regular season comes when the team hosts Holy Names on April 8 and West Seattle on April 13.