A mix of seniors and underclassmen led the Madras softball team to an 11-13 record — its best overall record since 2013.
Head coach Shawna McConnell opted not to choose traditional captains this season, instead picking a different two girls before each game to meet with the umpires and opposing teams.
But, with six seniors making up half of the White Buffalos' 12-girl roster, several were more vocal in their leadership than others. One of them was senior Melissa Field.
At times when a Madras pitcher was struggling on the mound, or someone made an error, Field could be heard above others from her post in centerfield. But her play spoke the loudest.
Field was named to the Tri-Valley Conference first team as an outfielder. In addition, Jiana Smith-Francis and Lizzie Steuart earned second-team pitching honors, while Celeste Morning Owl and Jordan Patt were named honorable mentions at the infield and catcher positions, respectively.
Staying true to her name, Field didn't let much past her in center. In addition to making the occasional diving grab, she robbed a couple opposing batters of home runs by hustling down fly balls near the fence.
One instance in particular, at home against Corbett May 9, Madras held an 11-1 lead in the top of the fifth inning with two outs. One more out and the Buffs would end the game on a 10-run mercy rule. But, when a Corbett batter launched a deep shot, it looked like the game would continue. That was until Field backpedaled and made a catch over her head, ending the game abruptly.
The Buffs' pitching staff of Steuart, a sophomore, and Smith-Francis, a freshman, were tasked with handling the majority of work on the circle. Both had their high moments and low ones, but were often able to balance out each other smoothly.
As both earned second-team honors, the only two pitchers who were voted ahead of them in conference — Crook County senior and Pitcher of the Year McKuenzie McCormick and fellow first-team selection, Gladstone senior Madi Mott — are both going on to play softball at the college level next year.
The fact that Steuart has two and Smith-Francis three years of high school softball remaining bodes quite well for the Buffs' future.
Patt and Morning Owl played pivotal roles in their respective positions.
Patt started the majority of the year at third base, but had the versatility to play the outfield and pitch as well.Similarly, Morning Owl saw significant time behind the plate, but also played infield positions when necessary.
Their versatility was characteristic of the whole team, as several players were capable of playing multiple positions.