Powerful Timberwolves return with young talent
The history of softball success at Tualatin High School is undeniable.
In the last five seasons played, the Timberwolves softball program has won two state championships, finished second in another, and once more lost in the state semifinals — not to mention last year's team, which returned the bulk of the roster that finished runner-up to Sheldon the year prior and was considered one of the favorites to take state before the season was canceled due to COVID-19.
This year is abnormal, though. That projected 2020 roster was laden with seniors, who have since graduated. And the rest of the team is picking up after an extended layoff, since spring sports were canceled last year.
"As a coach, you never want to say it's a rebuilding year, but this year is definitely different," Tualatin head coach Jenna Baird said. "With the youth, we knew this was going to be a team that needed to be coached a little more opposed to the seniors kind of taking over, so it's a little different approach."
Taylor Corcoran is the team's only senior and one of just three returning varsity players from last year's team that sat idle.
In addition to Corcoran, returners include juniors Leanna Rosenbaum and pitcher Camille Schmitz, and added to this year's mix is 2019-20 Clackamas transfer and fellow junior Rinoa Aiger.
Rounding out the 2021 Timberwolves team, there are five freshman on the roster this year, plus three sophomores.
That combination of youth and rust could make for a bumpy beginning.
"We just keep reminding the girls that everybody is going through this," Baird said. "It's going to be hard for everybody, so it's important we keep our heads up. And the girls are buying in, which is good."
The Timberwolves opened the season April 12, losing to perennial power Westview 5-0. Baird said there were obviously a fair share of self-inflicted wounds in the game, but that's also to be expected with a team finding it's way. They bounced back, however, on April 15, getting the season's first win in a 4-0 shutout of Canby, then following that with a 6-0 win over Lake Oswego.
Tualatin was led in the Canby game by Schmitz, who allowed just one hit while striking out 12 in seven innings of work, and was equally dominant against the Lakers, hurling 6.2 innings, allowing just two hits while striking out 15.
Against Canby, the Timberwolves also got two hits apiece from Alexis McMurray, Rosenbaum and Corcoran, the latter of which is getting her first action since her freshman year.
The senior drove in the winning run in the state championship game against Clackamas her freshman season, but then tore her ACL during practice her sophomore season and missed last year due to the cancellation. Baird said she's gained valuable experience even during her on-the-field absence, but she is clearly excited to be back out there for her high school swan song.
"She got to see the field from every angle while watching from the bench, and has that experience from being on a winning team," Baird said. "She's excited to be back."
Rosenbaum — who started every game behind the plate her freshman year — will be at second base this season and can "play anywhere," according to her coach, due to her athleticism.
Baird said that it's hard to separate the bulk of young talent on the roster because they've had so little time with the team, but she did say they working hard and eager to learn.
"They know the softball tradition here and know what we're about," she said. "I think it was a little intimidating to them in the beginning, but now that they are around our coaching staff and they kind of get us, they're ready to rock."
It's that eagerness and growing familiarity that has the coach and her staff excited about the future of the program.
"Me and this staff are big on the process, then the outcome will be there," Baird said. "We're not necessarily looking for wins and losses, but for line drives, execution and mentally errorless softball. These girls are coming to practice every day ready to learn and be a part of something big."
And are they having fun?
"Absolutely," the coach said. "We didn't think we would even get a season, so this is wonderful. Now we're ready to win some games and get back to Tualatin softball."
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