WALLOWA – Good defense, decent pitching, and proficiency in the batter’s box could all be regularly evident in Lady Cougars softball this season, a campaign benefiting from increased maturity of its returning players.

Coach Rob Burns tends to view matters in that light, anyway, and if you can’t be bullish on your team’s prospects at the outset, when can you be?

“I think we could go to state this year,” Burns says, adding not long afterward: “We’re just going to go out, play hard and have fun at it and try to do our best.”

Although Wallowa’s team is older than last year’s non-qualifier for state, this is still a young squad with only two seniors.

After graduating only one senior in 2012, Burns notes that he’s working with “pretty much the same team” in ‘13. “They’ve got a lot of potential. When they play together, they’re going to do well.”

Anchoring the outfield is senior Effie Burns, who will be patrolling center while juniors Jocelyn Tanzey and Madi Frye start at the left and right corners. Senior Sidney Bauck-Nelson and Emily George, a freshman, should serve as outfield reserves.

Something of a wild card in the deck is junior Shai Allen, a solid outfielder who can also play catcher. She’s a member of the Chief Joseph Days court, and commitments there will undoubtedly keep her away from the baseball field at times.

The infield should frequently have Taylor Harshfield and Kristyn Young at shortstop and third base, respectively, junior Lily Fiegel at second, and Sally Mary Blair, that conveniently tall sophomore target, recording outs at first.

Coach Burns anticipates this group turning some double-plays this year.

Sophomore Macey Frei is the most likely starting catcher, but Coach Burns says she’ll also be going to third base at times when Young is being rotated either to short, catcher, or to the mound.

Speaking of that 2013 pitcher’s mound for Wallowa, fans can look for Madison Lindsey, a junior, to be the person most frequently facing down opposing batters. Lindsey’s the No. 1 starter, and Young is slotted at No. 2. Harshfield and Blair are among other Cougars who could take the hill.

At the plate, the Cougars should be delivering some punch, including respectable power. Expect Harshfield to hit for a high average, Effie Burns to collect her share of hits, and Young and Frye to furnish some jolts for extra bases.

Sizing up some of the competition in 2A/1A Special District 6, Coach Burns believes Union/Cove is strong, per usual, Elgin/Imbler is probably improved, and he observes that Pine-Eagle goes completely out (not enough players) while new arrival Grant Union comes in. He says he doesn’t know what to expect from GU.

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