Softball: Tualatin looks to be ready to soar again
The Times' spring sports team preview stories are being written with the hope that teams will safely be able to return to action sometime this season. As of right now, school is suspended through April 28, so there can be no athletic contests until after that date, at the earliest.
Some things never seem to change.
At least, it certainly seems to be that way for the Tualatin High School softball team.
The Timberwolves, who have played in the past two Class 6A state championship games, winning the title in the 2018 season, look to be set to make another run at glory again this year.
"Our pitching is strong, and our hitting will do well," Tualatin coach Jenna Wilson said.
Tualatin, which holds the No. 1 spot in the Class 6A preseason coaches poll, lost just three starters to graduation to last year's squad that won the Three Rivers League title at 9-3, while going 25-6 on the season and reaching the Class 6A state championship game, where the Wolves were edged 5-4 by Sheldon.
Among the key returnees for the Wolves is senior pitcher Tia Ridings. Last year, Ridings, a left-hander, had a 20-3 won-loss pitching record for the season. She also had a 2.01 earned-run average, with 216 strikeouts and 32 walks in 146 1/3 innings pitched.
Ridings was named the Three Rivers League Pitcher of the Year as a junior, in addition to being a first-team Class 6A All-State selection.
Ridings should also be a key offensive weapon for the Wolves. Batting in the leadoff spot, she went 3 for 4 at the plate, with a double, a run scored and two RBIs in last year's state championship game.
Other pitchers for Tualatin include sophomore varsity returnee Camille Schmitz and senior Elizabeth Hillier.
At catcher, Tualatin returns sophomore Leanna Rosenbaum, who was an honorable-mention all-league pick a year ago.
The Timberwolf infield is anchored by senior Bella Valdes, who will be in her fourth year starting at shortstop. Valdes missed part of her junior season due to injury, but she was an honorable-mention all-league pick as a sophomore.
"This can be a really good team," Valdes said. "We lost some good players (including 2018 Three Rivers League Player of the year Emily Johansen), but we've got good pitching, hitting and fielding."
Sophomore Ella Hoyle, who was an honorable-mention All-Three Rivers League pick last year as a freshman, returns at third base.
Junior Taylor Corcoran could take over at first base for the Wolves. Corcoran missed the entire 2019 season due to injury. But, as a freshman, she was one of the heroes for Tualatin in the 4-3 win over Clackamas in the 2018 Class 6A state championship game, having the game-winning single in the bottom of the seventh inning.
The Tualatin outfield is led by senior returnee Sydney Wagner. Last year, Wagner was a first-team All-Three Rivers League pick and a third-team Class 6A All-State selection. Senior Savannah Braun also is back in the Timberwolf outfield. Braun, an honorable-mention All-Three Rivers League pick a year ago, had one of the biggest hits of the 2019 season for the Wolves, as she blasted a go-ahead grand slam home run in the top of the seventh inning of Tualatin's 10-7 win at Grants Pass in a Class 6A state playoff semifinal game.
Senior Kaylee Mo and senior Nicole Webb also return in the outfield for the Wolves.
Sophomore infielder Rinoa Aiger also is on the Tualatin varsity roster going into the 2020 season.
"We have high hopes to be in the top half of the league," Wilson said. "They look destined for the very top again, and have the tools to put together another deep postseason run."
The Wolves, if there is a season this year, will face plenty of challenges, coming from teams such as Sheldon, Glencoe, Sunset and rival Tigard, which ended Tualatin's state-record 45-game winning streak a year ago.
Still, despite all of the potential obstacles, the Timberwolves are hoping that their 2020 run ends with another state title.
"That's been in our sites since we lost last year," Ridings said. "I think we've got a lot of potential, and it's something that we're capable of."
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