After making a run to the Class 5A playoffs last year, what can St. Helens do for an encore?
A return trip to the postseason would be sweet. The Lions only lost four seniors off the squad that went 11-14 overall, 9-8 in the Northwest Oregon Conference and clinched the league's fourth automatic 5A postseason bid. St. Helens made the playoffs outright but were knocked out in the first round by Hood River Valley. They're well-stocked with returning talent and a skipper in Miranda Little who has helped build the Lions into a consistent contender. But each season is its own entity with its own unique challenges. The past is great to pull from, yet the Lions are looking toward what's ahead.
"This year is going to be a brand-new year for St. Helens softball," Little said. "We are going to have some fresh faces and a competitive spirit. We typically finish in the top half in league, and as a coach, I would like that to be our goal again."
Two of the Lions' team leaders are also seniors who happen to be returning starters in first baseman Brynn Austin and outfielder Dessa Cooper. Austin was a team captain last year. St. Helens' junior class is also stepping up with Brea Paulson, Jasmyne Pense and Kamrynn Hubbs. This seasoned fivesome of players is St. Helens' nucleus on the field as well as shining examples of what it means to be a Lion for the underclassmen coming through the program.
"Having strong role models that are upperclassmen is really nice when we have 14 freshmen athletes coming out," Little said.
Little expects St. Helens to play with heart, determination, and grit. Last year the Lions split games with LaSalle and Scappoose. Little hopes they can snag some more wins and hopefully knock out a game against Hillsboro and Rex Putnam both of whom tend to be the top of the league in softball.
"We are a competitive program and I want to make sure that that role continues while we bring in all of these young athletes into the program," Little said.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.