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The Cougars took third place in league and were able to hang in with top teams in the state

ARCHIVE PHOTO: TANNER RUSS - Canby's softball team managed to defeat TRL rival West Linn twice this season, and put together a solid record above .500 in taking third place in the conference. The Canby Cougars softball program began the 2017-2018 year with tentative expectations. The Cougars had graduated their starting pitchers, and were looking to replace them with inexperienced athletes on the mound. The post season was also an afterthought and not a foregone conclusion for head coach Jen Peterson at the beginning of the season. One step at a time.

At the end of the season though, the Cougars could look back on their body of work and be proud. The team finished 15-13 overall, and laid claim to third place in the Three Rivers League (TRL) with a league tally of 8 wins against six defeats.

Before the playoff loss to the 10th ranked West Albany Bulldogs, Canby's softball squad had won five out of its previous six games. The team was coming on strong to finish off the season. Against West Albany, the team was simply outgunned down the stretch.

"I think we were too eager to hit, and swinging at bad pitches and not being selective at the plate," Peterson said. "(The girls) had done a really good job the last couple of weeks of being more selective and hitting good pitches, and I think we just were so eager to hit that it didn't happen."

Part of Canby's success in the regular season was defensive proficiency and getting key runs when they needed to. The Cougars had the third best defense in the TRL, only allowing 142 runs all season. While the offense does not appear as strong on paper, only 149 runs scored, the third lowest total in the league, the team did well enough to best TRL rival West Linn on two different occasions.

"The second time we played West Linn here at home really stands out," Peterson said. "I think that was the first game all season, and maybe the only game all season, where every single person got on base and got a hit. They're a good team too. West Linn is one of those teams that our girls really like to beat. I feel like the energy was up the entire game, and that was one of our best games of the season."

As the season went on, more and more players stepped up and came into their own on the team. Peterson noted senior Bailey Shorter stepped into a more vocal leadership role, and senior Emma Stahlberg was a key player behind the dish. There were other members of the team that did work over the course of the season, and ones that will be missed when they graduate.

"Definitely losing Cassidy and Emily Hewitt in the middle at second and short is going to be a huge loss for us next year," Peterson said. "The two of them are so consistent. They've played together since they were 10 years old. They've played in the middle, started in the middle, for us for the last three, four years. Those are some big shoes to fill this next year."

Despite the early ousting from the post season, and the loss of a large group of seniors, Peterson is proud of the heart her team displayed over the course of the season, and knows that the girls will be ready to put in the work necessary to once again compete in the top of the competitive Three Rivers League.

"Overall I feel like it was a very successful season," Peterson said. "We got a couple underclassmen some playing time. We've got some people coming back next year with playing time. Next year will be a little bit of a rebuilding year, whenever you graduate eight seniors. But overall I felt the season went well."

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