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SOFTBALL PREVIEW: TJ looking for another trip to the state tournament; Beamer also solid
The Thomas Jefferson Raiders fastpitch team is loaded once again this season and hoping for a fourth straight trip to the state tournament.
Not only do the Raiders return eight of nine starters from a squad that finished 12-4 in the rugged South Puget Sound League North Division, but TJ also brings back the most successful coach in the program’s history.
Chad Fahnlander returns after taking a year off in 2011. He resigned after the 2010 season to spend more time with his family after coaching the Raiders for seven seasons and three state tournament appearances.
During his first stint, TJ was 110-70 and advanced to the postseason every year.
“My family and I spoke on many occasions on coaching and if it wasn’t here it was going to be somewhere coaching softball or baseball,” Fahnlander said. “Fortunately, the job opened back up. I re-interviewed and accepted my old position.”
Fahnlander was welcomed back by a very veteran team, which includes all-league players Lexi Goranson, Michaela Patton, Katie Jackson and Annalise Campbell.
“We have experience and a willingness to improve and get better,” Fahnlander said. “They are very hungry to improve and to qualify for the state tournament for the fourth straight year.”
Goranson and Jackson were both first-team, All-SPSL North selections a season ago.
Goranson, a senior outfielder, finished fourth in the league with a .565 batting average. She also led TJ with 12 runs scored and had a .615 on-base percentage.
Jackson, a junior, finished with a 3.34 earned-run average on the mound and had 46 strikeouts in 44 innings of work. She was also one of TJ’s best hitters and had four multi-RBI games.
Campbell, a sophomore, proved to be one of the Raiders’ best hitters during her first season. The infielder hit .387 with four multi-RBI games.
Jefferson opened its season Monday afternoon with a 27-0, five-inning thrashing of Decatur. Rocky Hale pitched the shutout on the mound while striking out 13 of a possible 15 hitters.
According to Fahnlander, the only weakness of this year’s TJ team is depth.
“This team will be successful if they strive to get better everyday and work together as a team and not as individuals,” he said.
Much like TJ, the Todd Beamer Titans bring back pretty much its entire roster from a season ago under first-year coach Brian Hering. The Titans finished 9-7 in the SPSL South and advanced into the West Central District Tournament. Beamer is looking to make the next step and earn a berth into the Class 4A state tournament this season.
Leading the list of returners is senior Emma Blauser, who has already signed to play at Western Washington in the fall. As a junior, Blauser was the second-team, All-SPSL South pitcher and was also one of the Titans’ better hitters.
On the mound, Blauser finished with a league best 16 complete games and ended up with a 9-7 record. Blauser threw 100 innings and struck out 87. At the plate, Blauser hit an impressive .400 with 15 RBIs and 22 runs. She also finished with six doubles, five stolen bases and led the SPSL South with two home runs and 15 walks.
Also back are Halle Colson, Naomi Lee and Kelsey McDonnell, who were also All-City players a season ago.
Lee, an infielder, ended the SPSL South season with a .410 batting average, scored 14 runs and knocked in 10 for the Titans. Colson was the first-team, All-SPSL South catcher after hitting .463, led the Titans with 20 RBIs, scored 14 runs and tied for the league lead with 10 doubles on the season.
McDonnell finished fourth in the SPSL South with a .512 batting average and was named first-team, All-league selection. She also scored 22 runs and led the league in stolen bases with 17. McDonnell had a .632 on-base percentage.
Also back are seniors Stephanie Wong and Destiny McDonald, juniors Sami Sunitsch and sophomores Taylor Weimer-Pierce and Alyssa Woods. Newcomers Megan Lindgren, Megan Jewitt-Chan, Maddelin Colson and Analee Scott should also provide more depth for the Titans.
Both Federal Way and Decatur are hoping to build a little momentum in their programs this season. The Eagles finished with just two wins a season ago and the Gators were winless in the SPSL 3A Division.
Federal Way and head coach Rosemarie Burke bring back talented centerfielder Laura Brown, who was a second-team, All-SPSL South Division selection after hitting .213 for the Eagles during her junior season. Also back is sophomore pitcher Jayme Scanson. Newcomers Mercede Vongasaveng (catcher) and RoseLinda Enoch (IF) should also provide some depth.
“This team will be successful if they play with no reserves and no retreat,” Burke said. “When we accomplish this, we will have a season with no regrets.”
The Gators and fourth-year head coach Molly Rutter return senior Jenny Fager (utility), along with sophomores Courtney Weick (1B/LF) and Alli Sherwin (OF).
Decatur will also be counting on plenty of newcomers this season, including sophomore Jennie Foraker and freshmen Aleah Adams, Melissa Garcia, Jules Loving and Maggie Victor.
“We are young, but a determined and hard-working group with a competitive edge,” Rutter said.