The Lady Cougars want to continue winning.
Many Wallowa High School girls - including six all-star softball players - are back from last year's surprise improvement. They compiled a 10-12 record. Combining the previous two seasons, Wallowa had mustered five wins. But the 2008 Cougars took a different route. They ended up in the state playoffs.
"We're young again," coach Rob Burns said. "We have only two seniors. But most of last year's team is back."
Success starts with pitching. Wallowa returns several proven throwers. Sophomore Kuulei Delatori and junior Angela Burns earned All-District honors last year. Junior Meagan McKenzie also pitched. And they will continue working with solid catchers: senior Ayesha Wortman and sophomore McKenzie Shelton. League coaches recognized Wortman as a versatile utility player. Burns added that sophomore Jesica Bingham, as well as freshmen Baylee Shelton and Justine English have practiced as more catching options.
Now more than ever, pitchers need an athletic defense ... especially in the outfield. The pitching circle has been moved back three feet, giving batters more time. As a result, Burns said he expects more fly balls and drives to the ranges. Unfortunately for the Cougars, center fielder Brittany Mayton graduated and left fielder Lexi Briggs moved. Both made the all-star team. In their place, coach Burns is piecing together a crew of youngsters and moving girls around the field. Juniors Megan Goller and Dani Roberts as well as sophomore Kyrie Weaver will share the outfield with a couple of freshmen: Baylee Shelton and Justine English. Burns, Delatori, Wortman, Meagan McKenzie and McKenzie Shelton could also see time out there.
But Cougars' infield is loaded with veterans. Though all-star second baseman Dominique Cherry graduated, most of the other positions are covered. Senior Judith Shike made the league's honor roll at third base, Meagan McKenzie at first base. Meanwhile, teammates are versatile and play multiple spots. If Wortman wasn't behind the plate, she often took shortstop. Between the bags, Wallowa will shuffle Goller, Roberts, Burns, Delatori, Weaver, McKenzie Shelton and sophomore Johni Lotze. Freshmen Bekah Jamerson and Baylee Shelton will join the infield rotation.
Cold days and snow limited Wallowa's young softball team to a few practices, mostly indoors at the school gym. But the Lady Cougars will drive March 20 to Elgin for its first game.