MHS softball filled with experience
The Madras softball program has a very experienced team this fall with seven seniors leading the way.
Last season, the Buffs only had one senior and were able to make the postseason, losing a tough play-in game in extra innings against North Bend.
"We only lost one senior, but three other kids will not be returning, so I guess we lost just four kids," head coach Shawna McConnell said. "It is a very solid 10 players returning with some swing players that had some varsity experience."
"It is going to be a weird year with how things are starting — a mix of indoor practices and really not seeing any of these girls in action, fielding or at a scrimmage," she said. "I am trying to not make any assumptions, good or bad, but it helps having a very senior-heavy group."
"We only have six new girls in the entire program," she said. "They are all freshmen, so a lot of athletes are back. This should be a pretty strong year across the board for both programs (varsity and junior varsity).
The young team surprised a lot of people last year, finishing the season with a 12-11 overall record, 8-7 in the Tri-Valley Conference. Madras took North Bend by surprise, having a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning before losing 2-1 in the ninth inning.
The Lady Buffs finished in third place in the Tri-Valley, with Gladstone leading the way.
"It is the same with everyone year to year," said McConnell. "We are always middle of the road or better as far as program strength. Same with Gladstone, who is looking to be strong as always. Crook County is out now and North Marion is in. We always have to watch out for Estacada; they have really improved."
"It's always the same every year, where you have to look out for certain programs, but you can't take anyone for granted in this league (TVC)," she said. "Corbett is also strong. We always beat each other up last year, so we just need to be ready with some competitive play."
While being stuck inside for practices, the Lady Buffs are taking in as much information as they can, as they work on small details that will add up to big improvements.
"We are just trying to get repetition with our offense," McConnell said. "There is only so much you can do indoors. Outfielders haven't had very much work because there is no fly-ball action. We have been mainly focusing on our pitching and hitting because that is the easiest thing to work on inside."
Madras will be led by several different players this year, but senior Lizzie Steuart will likely have a big impact on the hill and in the batter's box. Steuart recorded 45 strikeouts in 17 games pitching last season, while having an incredible .517 batting average. She also ended the season with 30 hits, two doubles, two home runs and 27 RBIs.
Junior Jiana Smith-Francis earned second-team pitcher last season and recorded 57 strikeouts in 17 games. She also had a .400 batting average with 26 hits, nine doubles, two home runs, and 28 RBIs.
Sophomore Delaney Vibbert and senior Mary Olney are also returning from earning second-team honors last season. The two combined for 51 hits, and 28 RBIs. Senior Niyalee Cochran will also be returning this season, after earning honorable mention utility player last season.
The Lady Buffs are traveling to Mazama on Wednesday, March 13, for their first game of the season. They are going to Mazama High School several hours before their game, so they can have a practice on a field for the first time this season.