A new and improved Jennifer Pass, a solid infield and a potent offensive attack could have the Astoria softball team reaching for some lofty goals this year.
The Fishermen (finally) opened their 2003 season Monday afternoon as they played two games of a tripleheader at Tapiola Park, along with Clatskanie and the Hillsboro junior varsity team.
Astoria opened with an 11-1 win over Hillsboro, then capped the day with a 9-1 victory over the Tigers.
Entering her senior season on the mound for Astoria, Pass picked up both victories to get the Fishermen off to a 2-0 start.
It was only the third time this season - practice included - that the Fishermen have been able to play outdoors.
"We're ready to get out and play, but games are just getting canceled right and left, and we haven't been able to get on the field," said Astoria coach Dawn Pass.
"We haven't been able to work on anything that would involve throwing any distance, because you can't throw much in a gym, and all the grounders are just flat and right to you."
The Fishermen got plenty of work Monday, although neither game went the full seven innings.
A pitcher's dual against Hillsboro soon turned into a one-sided pitcher's dual. Pass didn't allow a hit until the fourth inning, and finished with eight strikeouts and one walk.
SUE CODY - The Daily Astorian
Astoria's Kim Russell safely slides into third base as coach Dawn Pass, left, watches the throw in Monday's softball game against Clatskanie.The Spartans managed two hits off Pass, with Astoria freshman Megan Gallegos pitching the final inning.
The Fishermen scored a run in the bottom of the second, but didn't get their first hit until the third inning, when Kira Haukikenziro led off with a single down the left field line.
Laura Posey was hit by a pitch (one of four Astoria players hit by pitches), and both runners scored on a single to center from Pass.
Tara Johnson's sacrifice fly scored Pass for a 4-0 lead.
Astoria had eight hits in the opener, including a run-scoring triple in the fourth inning by freshman Kim Russell.
A double by Johnson in the fifth scored Pass, while Alicia Marsh, Haukikenziro and Erin McCoy had consecutive singles in the sixth, which led to three runs.
Astoria pounded out eight hits in the Game 2 win, including seven runs on seven hits in the third inning.
Jennifer Pass allowed just one hit in the five-inning contest, with seven strikeouts.
The only down side for the Fishermen was losing Erica Angus in the third inning, as the senior shortstop was hit by a foul ball while standing in the on-deck circle.
Angus suffered a fractured jaw and a broken tooth, and received several stitches in her lip. She will return to action next week, coach Pass said.
Haukikenziro suffered a sprained knee on a stolen base, but returned to finish the game.
Offensively, Marsh and Posey both had doubles, while Pass had a pair of singles.
The hits will be hard to come by when facing Astoria this season. The first obstacle is Jennifer Pass, who has added a few pitches to her arsenal to make her one of the top pitchers in the Cowapa League for the third straight year.
"We've added some pitches, and we've refined the old ones a little," said coach Pass. "Her rise ball is starting to jump a little more, and her curve ball and slider are working real well. She's got her speed up a little, and it will get better as time goes on. This is the first time she's thrown on dirt this year - most of it has been in the gym."
If anyone manages to make contact with a Pass pitch, there's still no guarantee of a base hit, since the Astoria defense features a few golden gloves in the field.
In Monday's opener, McCoy snagged a line drive at second base to rob Hillsboro of a base hit, while Haukikenziro made a diving catch at first and Johnson made a tough grab in center field to end a Spartan scoring threat.
It will be the senior year for several key Astoria players, including Pass, Haukikenziro, McCoy and Angus.
"They've been here forever," coach Pass said. "We're pretty loaded with seniors this year, which is kind of sad, because they'll be moving on after this year, and they're a huge core of the team.
"I'm still looking forward to the future, because we've got some good, strong young players coming up. I've got some real encouraging hopes for Kim (Russell) - I think she'll do just fine. She's got some big shoes to fill."
Russell started behind the plate Monday, while Astoria had Posey in right field, Angus at shortstop, sophomore Nicole McBride at third and junior CeeCee Wills in left field.
Until the league season starts, Pass will be "kind of mixing it around," she said.
"We're not sure if these are the actual positions that they'll be playing. Megan (Gallegos) will be a swing player this year, and we'll take her with the varsity when the JV isn't playing or when we absolutely need her. We want to make sure she pitches as much as possible."
The Cowapa League, meanwhile, could be a free for all.
"It's just like last year - we gave Banks a run for their money the first time we played them," Pass said. "Then the second time we played them, it was like, 'oh my gosh.'
"You never know. Banks lost a lot of players, we beat Scappoose once last year; Jehnna (Baldwin, the Scappoose pitcher) is a brick wall.
"But Banks always pulls something out of their pocket," said the Astoria coach. "I'm not sure if Scappoose will be the top dog, because Banks always tends to be real strong, and they always have a strong summer program.
"It's kind of up in the air. It's anybody's game this year. All of us - Tillamook, us, Rainier, Seaside ... we're all going to challenge."
Rainier sweeps Valley CatholicBEAVERTON - Rainier pitchers Jack Whipple and Kyle Rask combined on a no-hitter in Game 1, as the Columbians swept a pair of games at Valley Catholic Monday, 13-0 and 12-0.
Rainier's Broc Coffman and Kyle Jackson each went 3-for-4 in the opener, while Logan Andrews was 2-for-2 with two home runs in Game 2.
Monday's nonleague game involving Warrenton at Astoria was postponed due to poor field conditions.
Scores from Knappa at Heppner and Seaside at Rogue River were not reported.
Wishkah sweeps NaselleWISHKAH, Wash. - The Naselle baseball and softball teams both opened the 2003 season with league games Monday afternoon, and both lost in close games at Wishkah.
The visiting Comets dropped a 9-8 decision in the baseball game, while a young Naselle softball team fell 7-5. Naselle pitcher Amanda Badger gave up just three hits in the loss.