Despite ousting from post season, Wildcats softball showed growth
It wasn't the perfect season for the Wilsonville softball team, but it was one with quantifiable growth. The team finished sixth in the Northwest Oregon Conference, one spot up from last year, with a league record of 6-11. Wilsonville also finished with an overall record of 11-16, an improvement from the 6-20 tally posted last season.
For head coach Steve Harms, it is definitely a positive to see the numbers go in his girls favor. Harms took over the head coach position this year from previous head coach Missy Oleson.
"I'm extremely pleased," Harms said. "I think we've come a long way from the beginning of the season. We had an 11-16 record this year and our first time into a play-in game in the last five seasons, so we're definitely on the upswing."
The play-in game against Hood River Valley did not go the Wildcats way. The Eagles trounced Wilsonville 14-0, beating them for the second time this season.
"Hood River is just a really strong team," Harms said. "They pulled out all the stops and really came for us. We met up with them in the beginning of our season and I think we surprised them a little bit. They sure did not take us for granted this time. We did all we could do to slow their offense down, and make plays, and their pitching and defense was superb."
The trend of the season was growth, not only for the girls on the squad, but between the coaches and the players as well. Harms and his new coaching personnel really felt that bond grow over Spring Break when they played a handful of games in Medford.
"The biggest difference was our varsity coaching staff was different," Harms said. "Myself, McKenna Welch, Dixon Ingalls, all three new coaches for this group of players. That meant a lot to come together early in the season and bond. It can only go up from here. The expectation is that we can only continue to improve upon that."
On the field, Harms felt improvement was shown in all facets of the game. While the team still needs to improve offensively, real gains were made on defense, according to Harms.
"I think that the execution of plays and our defense has improved tremendously from the beginning of the season to the end," Harms said. "Supporting the pitcher and making plays behind either Emily (Harms) or Kailey (Krueger). Our catching, Maryssa Miller has done an excellent job at that just about every game this year, and just did a fantastic job behind the plate. We probably (improved) on the defensive side the most."
With the end of the season, Harms loses four seniors: Stephanie Soderlund, Lauryn Seibel, starting pitcher Kailey Krueger, and Joelle Harmitt. While he loses four skilled players, part of what he loses with this group is intangible.
"This group of seniors brought leadership," Harms said. "Not to say that those voids won't be filled by others because they're all maturing. But the year prior there was one senior, and this year we had four seniors. It's a bigger senior group, and there's just that experience and leadership qualities. I'm confident that we'll have people stepping up into those roles going into next year."
Seeing the work his girls put in on and off the field was something else that Harms took note of. The Wildcats registered a 3.37 team GPA, according to OSAA.org. The first year Wilsonville head coach was impressed by the time management his team showed to juggle athletics and academia.
"The girls put a lot of time into softball, and they have a very busy schedule with school, and that's definitely a priority," Harms said. "That was surprising to me. The time requirement for them and how much effort it takes to keep everything going. They did such a great job with that. Each one of them did well in the classroom as well as on the field."