James Nichols takes over as head coach of Knappa softball, as the Lady Loggers continue their battle for a Northwest League championship.

The Loggers have finished second in the NWL standings the last three years – could this be the season they climb to the top?

It looks promising, with a 3-0 start in league play and one of the top pitchers at the 2A level in sophomore Kacie Cameron.

“Just getting to state is our main goal,” said Nichols, who takes over for Stan Sporseen, who led the Loggers to a 12-3 league mark last year, and a state playoff appearance.

Knappa has made the state playoffs the last three seasons, with first-round losses at Kennedy, Glendale and Irrigon.

THE LEAGUE

One good thing the Loggers have working in their favor – they play in the Northwest League, not one of the stronger leagues when it comes to softball. At the end of last season, Gaston was the NWL’s highest-ranked team (14th), while four of the league’s six teams were ranked in the bottom 10 of the OSAA rankings.

Results may be a little better this year, with most teams returning key players.

“Gaston is going to be pretty tough,” Nichols said. “They graduated one, and they have everybody else back. There were only four seniors on the first team all-league team last year, so most of the good players are coming back.”

THE PLAYERS

A pair of sophomore pitchers could be racking up lots of wins for Knappa over the next three years.

Kacie Cameron and Stacey Aho have both seen time in the circle this season – and both have seen a lot of action over the years with the North Coast Merchants.

Aho and Cameron will be throwing to junior Iris Rankin, Knappa’s starting catcher.

The Knappa infield includes senior Rea Elliott at first base, junior Maddy Pitts at second, junior Haley Rubus at shortstop and senior Emily Goodman at third.

Seeing action in the outfield will be junior Teresa Nicholson and sophomores Stephanie Bue and Aho.

Four others on the varsity roster include juniors Hanna McAloney and Haili Wirkkula, and freshmen Bailey Corder and Tieara Moore.

KNAPPA SOFTBALL

Coach: James Nichols, first year

2012: 18-3 (12-3 NWL)

Playoffs: Lost state playoff at Irrigon (1-3)

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