ILWACO, Wash. - Last season the Lady Fishermen looked like Superman their first nine games, going 9-0 for their fastest start in school softball history.
Then Clark Kent appeared in the phone booth and they dropped their next nine contests.
They won a pigtail playoff game with Winlock, but lost to two-time state champion Montesano and to Kalama in district to end their best season at 10-11.
This spring, Ilwaco is hopeful of turning the tables at district and making its fist state tourney appearance. To do that, they will have to replace graduated pitcher Alexis Couch and starting catcher Kate Denton, who transferred.
"Our goal is to finish at least second in the league," Coach Rick Bishop said.
Sydney Ward is the likely prospect to take over in the circle, as she has pitched the past two seasons at the junior varsity level. "Sydney has worked hard on her pitching and she is further along as a junior than some of our other pitchers have been," Bishop said.
Vallori Crowston is the leading candidate to play catcher. "In our league, a single or a walk turns into a triple if we don't have a strong catcher," Bishop said, "and Vallori looks like she can fill that role.
The Lady Fishermen's strength will be up the middle as second baseman Aimee Banuet, shortstop Alexa Wirkkala and center fielder Ashley Tapio have been "hitting the beans out of the ball" according to Banuet. "Well we have," the senior beamed after a recent practice. Wirkkala set a school record for home runs last year with five and Banuet and Tapio are all-league type players, offensively and defensively.
Kelsey Madsen at first base and Erin Kelly at third have started the past two seasons, and are capable in the field and at the plate. They are backed up by Kelsey Gardner and Kayla Rogers. Kady Kirby is a good hitting right fielder and Elleigh Kaino and Trisha Cass are vying for playing time in left. Kaino is a speedster who has improved a great deal, as has Cass.
Megan Clark is a freshman pitcher who could help at the varsity level before the season is over, either in the circle or at another position. "She has the potential to become a dominant pitcher in our league over the next four years," Bishop predicted. Logan Manecke is also a freshman who has gotten some reps at catcher for varsity. Both could see junior varsity action to begin the season.
Bishop sees Castle Rock as being the favorite and Kalama and La Center as being "very good softball teams with a tradition of success." He said, "White Salmon hits the ball well, but didn't have much pitching last year and Stevenson pitched well, but didn't hit. We won't be able to take anyone lightly in the Trico."
The past three seasons Montesano and Castle Rock have been either first or second in the state. Before that, Onalaska won two straight titles and was second in 2004. Toledo has been first once and second twice since 2000, and they are also from District IV. Those four teams will be vying with the Fishermen and the rest of the Trico for only three invitations to the state tournament in 2010.
"With the large number of players out for softball it is obvious that our summer league programs are paying dividends. It will come down to pitching, clutch hitting and defense; but we are strong as we have ever been." Bishop said.
Ilwaco travels to Seaside March 20 for a tournament.