Philomath High’s softball program finds itself in a positive state of mind heading into the 2022 season. The Warriors bring back key players from last year’s squad and have added young talent that could push the team to new heights.
On top of all that, Travis King will finally coach his high school softball team for a full season. In 2020, the beginning weeks of the pandemic led to the season’s cancellation. And in 2021, the season was shortened to 13 games with no playoffs.
King’s excited to get it started with the first game scheduled for Tuesday.
“We’ve got experience and coming into it, I think we’re going to be able to solidify the infield pretty good and our outfield is going to be pretty solid,” King said last week. “We’ve got a little bit of tweaking to do but other than that, they’re still hitting.”
Philomath High freshman Evy Remington comes into the program with an exceptional talent level that will have an immediate impact — whether it’s in the circle, in the field or at the plate.
“Evy brings, in my mind, just about every pitch that you can have,” King said. “Evy, for as small as she is, she brings a bunch of power, so she also hits home runs.”
Remington, daughter of former head coach and current assistant coach Erik Remington, has competed in high-level club softball.
“I think I’m working on four pitchers for varsity this year,” King said. “That’ll make a huge difference. … I’m hoping to pitch by committee and see how many we can use in a game and not put it all on one pitcher like we’ve had to in the past.”
The pitchers will throw to an experienced catcher in senior Reagan Larson. Another senior, Kyla Berger, is also a capable catcher who can step in when needed there instead of in the outfield.
Sophomore Presley Reichhuber will move into center field this season and carries a dangerous bat from the left side. Junior Mia Bennett, who was hampered by an injury last season, appears to be back at full strength and is penciled in for left.
Other returning players who started on varsity include sophomore Ahnika Tryon and senior Ashlynn Barron.
Those moving up from JV include senior Mackenzie Hiner and juniors Kori Galvan, McKenzie Hauck, Adrianna Hunter and Elizabeth Morales-Marquez.
“There will be some girls that are moving around that don’t have a permanent home but I have the ability to move them around because they have good qualities just about anywhere we put them … very athletic kids,” King said.
The team went 8-5 during the pandemic-abbreviated season last year. Lost to graduation were longtime pitcher Kamden Combs, center fielder Kaili Saathoff and third baseman Emily King. The program also lost first baseman and power hitter Melanie Baldwin, who moved out of state.
King will open the season with 13 players on varsity and 29 in the entire program.
The Warriors bring in a strong freshman class. In addition to Remington, another immediate impact player will be Jenae Traglia. King called her a solid infielder who can also play catcher. In fact, King wants to get Traglia some time behind the plate in preparation for next season and beyond. Freshman Hannah Bennett is another future catching prospect that will start the season on junior varsity but could be a swing player as the season wears on.
In all, PHS softball has 12 freshmen.
“I think we’re going to have a solid ballclub for years now because we have a small senior class but we do have a really big junior class, small sophomore class and a huge freshman class,” King said. “And if you look further on down the line, we have other programs with more talent coming up in the next couple of years.”
Philomath opens the season Tuesday with a run over to Lebanon — a 5A school that has become a familiar nonleague opponent in recent years. This weekend, the Warriors will play a doubleheader in Lebanon against La Grande at 10 a.m. and Gladstone at 2 p.m. The games were originally scheduled to played at home but were moved to Lebanon’s turf field in anticipation of inclement weather.
The team will participate in the North Medford Spring Break Invitational on March 21-22 to play four games in two days before getting into Oregon West Conference play.
“Our league opener is Cascade and that’s probably going to be our toughest opponent,” King said.
Newport lost its top talent from a year ago and could be in for a rebuilding year, King said. The league schedule also includes two trips for Philomath over to Sisters.
Remington, as mentioned, returns to help with the program but the rest of King’s staff is new. Former standout player Hannah Williams joins the team as varsity assistant coach. Another former player, Amie Russell, will help as a volunteer assistant. Cynthia Zerby-Buterbaugh comes on board as the program’s junior varsity coach. Cody King is the team manager.