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Danielson, Shoemaker guiding green Valiant softball squad

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic pitcher Molly Danielson is just a sophomore, but the righty has taken on a leadership role for the inexperienced Valiants.

A year older and a year wiser, Molly Danielson and Lauren Shoemaker are the linchpins escorting a Valley Catholic softball team that’s senior-loaded, but green and learning on the job.

Danielson — the Valiants’ returning starting pitcher— and Shoemaker — Valley’s vocal leader and most experienced player — led the way in Valley’s first win of the season, 12-2, against Neah-Kah-Nie on Thursday. Danielson struck out 13 batters in five strong innings of work and drove in two runs batting cleanup. Shoemaker was stout at the dish, going three-for-three with a trio of RBIs to couple a handful of web gem defensive plays from her shortstop position.

“Today I was just on it,” said Danielson. “I was feeling really good about it. I’m just glad I was pitching well. Last year I had a really hard time because it was my first time pitching. This year I’m focused on my snap, speed and stepping really hard. Everyone supported me and brought it offensively.”

“We never really let up,” added Shoemaker. “We were always on our toes, always attentive on every play. When we did make plays, we made them count. We stayed on it and did everything we could to get that win. We had a couple games earlier this week that we had to take a lot away from, and it really showed through in this game.”

With three seniors joining the team for the first time this season, and three freshmen getting quality time at important positions, Danielson and Shoemaker will be asked to carry the brunt of the Valiants’ pitching, hitting and defensive duties by new head coach Frank Rethwill. If the Neah-Kah-Nie contest is any type of litmus test, the pair will be up for the challenge.

“I liked that she was more under control,” said Rethwill of Danielson. “(Neah-Kah-Nie) walked a few. We got the key hits that brought the runs in. The girls were aggressive on the base paths and, that always puts you in a good spot to score.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic senior shortstop Lauren Shoemaker is one of the few experienced softball players on the Valiants roster this spring.

After Danielson struck out the side in the top of the first, Valley scored seven runs and batted around the lineup in the bottom of the first with Shoemaker driving two runs and catcher Meagan Keagbine bringing in two more with a double to left.

“Having that early lead showed us, ‘Hey, look at what we can do. Let’s build on this’,” said Shoemaker. “It made us want to drive harder and get some more runs in. It’s always hard if you get down, to rebuild that confidence and get some more runs.”

Armed with a 7-0 lead, Danielson padded her punchout total in the second inning, sitting down three of the Indians’ heavy hitters with blow-by fastballs that pounded Keagbine’s mitt and quickly got the Valiants back in the dugout. Valley scored twice more in the bottom of the second with Erin Weinbender scoring on a wild pitch that gave Danielson a 9-0 advantage to work with.

“I felt like pitching well in the first inning brought everyone up,” said Danielson. “Sometimes when the pitcher’s down, it’s hard to get the game going. But, I thought everyone was into it once I started doing well.”by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic sophomore pitcher Molly Danielson says she's much improved in the circle from a year ago and hopes to carry the Valiants this season.

Danielson struck out two more in the fourth, and sat down the side swinging in the fifth, that gave Valley the 10-run mercy rule win.

“She’s going to be a strong point this season,” Shoemaker said of Danielson. “Having her come back, she already has some experience, so I think she’s going to be huge.”

Shoemaker said Valley’s strength lies in the infield, where she, Grayce Kelly, Mady Moore and Kim Duyck will hold down the fort around Danielson in the circle. The Valiant outfield of Erin Weinbender, Sannah Braun, Emily Gfroerer and Joanna Duyck has flickered its share of defensive abilities as well.

“I’m really excited to see how this season goes,” said Shoemaker. “I know we’re going to be really competitive with a lot of the teams in our league this year. There are going to be a lot of even matches with Warrenton and Clatskanie. Rainier’s going to be great competition because they’re the defending state champions.”

Weinbender, Kelly and Kim Duyck are brand-new to the softball scene, giving Valley six newcomers who are still learning the nuances of the game and what it takes to be competitive on the diamond. Danielson can attest to being the new kid on the block, being that last year was her first ever playing softball.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic senior first baseman Kim Duyck is one of three seniors playing softball for the first time.

The learning curve can be steep, the sophomore said, but she’s been pleasantly surprised with the progress shown by the rookies.

“Some of them are hitting, getting on base and stealing really well,” said Danielson. “I’m really proud they’re doing that. I see a lot of improvement for league. I think it’s going to be a lot better than last year. I’m really excited about this year.”

“Having a lot of inexperienced players, I expect to improve,” added Rethwill. “I expect them to learn the game, learn the skills. I think they’ll enjoy themselves and feel good about themselves and how they play.”

Shoemaker is a dynamo at shortstop, a smaller infielder with defensive range for days who can eat up groundballs going up the middle or left field. She’s by far the most seasoned player on the team and one who has played softball on the club scene.

The captain would like nothing more than to shock the state and go to the state playoffs.

Yet, for now, she’s focused on helping the unversed Valiants get relaxed in their new surroundings both in the box and with gloves on their hands defensively.

“We want to stay focused no matter what happens each game,” said Shoemaker. “We want to try and go to state and just keep pushing. Honestly, I truly believe we can go to state if we stay focused on that goal.”

“I just want us to focus and have fun at the same time,” added Danielson. “I know a lot of the seniors joined at the last second to have fun, so I think if we focus, the speed will start coming, and the plays will go faster.”




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