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Softball: Kennedy emerging as championship contenders

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Behind ace pitching and a stellar defense, the No. 1 Trojans are one of the state's best 2A/1A softball teams in the state

PHIL HAWKINS - Kennedy's returning all-state junior pitcher Tressa Riedman has helped limit opposing 2A/1A teams to just one run scored this season and has a perfect game under her belt against the Regis Rams on April 4.
If the saying goes that defense wins championships, then the No. 1 Kennedy softball team better start clearing its schedule for a deep postseason run at the end of the month.

As the spring softball season moves into the final month of play, the Trojans (10-3, 9-0 Special District 2) have emerged as one of the top 2A/1A teams in the state and a contender to challenge for a trip to the state championship game in Corvallis this June.

Kennedy's rise to the top of the 2A/1A rankings has been fueled by the team's stellar play on defense, where the team has given up just 2.85 runs per contest — the third best mark in the state. Take out the team's three games against 3A teams and that number drops to a staggering 0.10 runs allowed per game.

"It's been a combination of our pitching and also our defense has really picked it up," head coach Walt Simmons said. "They're making plays. It's nice to see routine plays are made routine."

The Trojans have been practically unhittable against fellow 2A/1A teams this spring, giving up just one run in 10 contests over the past month and a half. In fact the team was literally unhittable to open the month of April, as junior pitcher Tressa Riedman tossed a perfect game at Regis on April 4, one of nine shutouts the Trojans have put up against opponents this year.

It's hard to tell which has been better for the Trojans this spring — Riedman or the defense that surrounds her. Last year, Riedman was named Conference Pitcher of the Year and made the All-State Second Team, but she has come back even stronger for her junior year.

"I think what's probably improved is the mental side of her game," Simmons said. "So if somebody gets on, it doesn't affect her as much as it did last year. She knows she has good defense behind her and she's not afraid to throw what she throws."

PHIL HAWKINS - Fellow junior Hannah Arritola is one of three all-state defenders that back up Riedman, helping the Trojans hold opponents to just 2.85 runs per game.
It helps that Riedman is backed by an all-star team of defenders, including all-state honorees Emily Frey, Molly Jaeger and Kalyssa Kleinschmit. Together, the Trojans have made short work of the Special District 2 conference, and are in the driver's seat toward capturing their second consecutive league title after defeating No. 3 Central Linn 7-0 on Saturday to win the season series against the Cobras (11-3, 6-2).

Riedman struck out eight and held the Cobras to just three hits in six innings and helped herself on the offensive end by going 3-for-4 with a double, home run, four RBIs and two runs scored in the victory.

It was a much more convincing win for the Trojans, who previously defeated the Cobras 3-1 on April 21 in the second game of a double header against Central Linn and St. Paul.

"Even though we did well in that game, it was still another game," Simmons said of the first game against Central Linn. "We were OK, just not as sharp as we were the second game without having to be in the second half of a double header."

As the shutout victories continue to pile up and Kennedy remains at or near the top of the OSAA standings, the Trojans are clearly a championship contender. But in a school that has captured state titles in baseball, basketball and track in the past five years, the Trojans know the road to the finals is a tightrope walk that can easily go off balance.

"I think they're realistic and say, 'We're here now, but that can change quickly if we don't stay focused,'" Simmons said. "They've been really loose in each game and having fun and coming together as a team, and that's probably what's helping us keep this going."

PHIL HAWKINS - Kennedy senior Rheannan Hernandez is one of eight returning starters from last year's state semifinal team that give the Trojans one of the most experienced defenses at the 2A/1A level this year.
And the team still has plenty of softball scheduled before the playoffs begin. In addition to six league games left on the slate, the Trojans have non-league dates against 3A teams from Dayton, Clatskanie and Scio.

While Kennedy has been nigh unstoppable against 2A/1A teams, the opposite has been true when the team plays up. The Trojans have been outscored 36-4 in three losses to 3A Amity (11-3, 5-1 West Valley) and No. 3 Dayton (12-1, 5-0). And the team is scheduled to continue a makeup game against Scio later this month in which Kennedy already trails 12-0 in the top of the second inning.

For Simmons, those non-conference games are an excellent way to keep the team focused and make sure they know how to play and react when Trojans are not playing their best.

"I think we need to get over the 3A thing and we haven't yet," he said. "We just need to approach it as another game we can compete and learn from the experience. I think that's what can help us, even if we're not on the winning side of the contest."

This week, the Trojans were scheduled to host Vernonia on Monday, followed by a trip to Regis on Tuesday before closing out the week against Santiam on Thursday. From there, Kennedy wraps up the regular season with seven straight home games before its season finale at Western Mennonite on May 17.

Phil Hawkins covers all things sports and Gervais. He can be reached at 503-765-1194 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..