Wilsonville pitcher Maddie Erickson hopes to end prep softball career on a high note
It's fair to say that Maddie Erickson's high school softball career has not gone the way she expected it would.
She missed her freshman season with an injury, saw her sophomore season canceled due to statewide COVID-19 restrictions and her junior year shortened to six weeks with no playoffs or state championship.
But that doesn't mean that Erickson, the star pitcher for the Wilsonville softball team, won't get the fairytale finish she's always dreamed of — her school's first-ever Class 5A state softball championship.
Erickson, a University of Michigan commit, and the Wildcats have opened the 2022 season with a 7-3 overall record, a No. 2 ranking in the March 30 5A coaches poll and the No. 1 spot in the Oregon School Activities Association's latest power rankings.
Together, Wilsonville's fast start, strong pitching (the team's other top pitcher, senior Anna Jardin, is a Rhode Island commit) and deep lineup have the Wildcats convinced that they can win a state title.
"This is a special group," Erickson said. "I believe that if we play at our full strength, we will make history for our school."
Her coach, Steve Harms, thinks she's right.
"After what we saw in our preseason, I like our chances in league and postseason," Harms said. "If we play our game, I think we will be a hard team to beat."
If the Wildcats are successful in achieving their greatest goals in 2022, Erickson will likely be one of the main reasons.
In the Wildcats' first 10 games — two of their losses have come against top-15 Class 6A teams — Erickson has gone 5-2 from the pitching circle with a 2.084 earned run average, allowing 27 hits and 22 walks while striking out 76 in just 43.2 innings.
"I feel that I've pitched effectively this year so far," Erickson said. "There is always room to improve, but I'm happy with the progress I'm making with (sophomore catcher Maddie Holly)."
"Maddie has both velocity and spin, which makes her a very effective pitcher," Harms said. "I believe that her biggest strength is her work ethic. She puts a lot of extra time into all aspects of her game."
That said, there's always more work to be done for a pitcher as focused as Erickson.
"I am working on starting my movement pitches in different places so even if the hitters don't swing, it will be moving through the zone for a strike," Erickson said.
She's also a strong hitter, batting .423 in the Wildcats' first 10 games, banging out 11 hits (including two doubles) and walking 12 times, while collecting six RBIs and scoring five runs.
To say the least, Erickson has made believers of the Michigan coaching staff. She committed to the Wolverines in October of 2020 and has never looked back.
"I am a Wolverine at heart, but when I step on the field now, I am a Wildcat," Erickson said. "I'm proud to be a Wildcat and I'm proud to be a Wolverine."
While some athletes struggle with the pressure of the recruiting process, Erickson was not among them. She just took care of business on the field and let the business of recruiting take care of itself.
"I don't believe that there ever was much pressure," she said. "I was just playing my game and I clicked with the most amazing coaching staff in college softball. Who wouldn't want to play for those individuals? I believe that signing those papers made me even more hardworking."
While there are challenges ahead — the rest of the state's top five includes Pendleton/Griswold, The Dalles/Dufur/South Wasco County, Eagle Point and St. Helens — the Wildcats believe in themselves and their chance to win it all in 2022.
"Although there wasn't state last year, we won league and Wilsonville hasn't done that since 2001. We made a mark on the poster in our gym 20 years later," Erickson said. "That felt really good. As a senior, I want to make an impact on the program, and there's no better way to do it than to bring everyone up and win together."
"I know Maddie wants to make the most of her last year and she is very focused (on doing) just that," Harms said. "We have an infectious offense that can get started at any part of our lineup. We have kids who make some great plays in the field — they really pick each other up and it's awesome to have depth in pitching. … I'm fortunate to have such a great group of kids to coach."
Whatever happens going forward — the Wildcats are currently 1-0 in NWOC play where they also must deal with No. 7 St. Helens and No. 12 Scappoose — Erickson and her Wilsonville teammates are determined to make the most of their opportunities.
"It amazes me to look back at Maddie's time here as a Wildcat," Harms said. "Who would have thought that she would only have one opportunity for a complete season of high school softball? … (That) was not the vision I had at the start of her high school career."
"Not being able to compete freshman year because of an injury, sophomore year because of COVID and junior year didn't have state, this is the team that's going to do it," Erickson said. "This is my first full year of high school softball (so) why not end on a high note?"
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