By Jeremy McDonald
SCIO, Ore.– As Head Coach Jim Mask and his coaching staff were talking to the Lady Loggers after their first-day of practice, something was brought up that was interesting: There will be a lot of holes to be filled next year and how important this year is for the younger players and the seniors to connect.
It’s hard to phantom that back in 2014-2015 when these seniors came into a Scio Logger softball program that was coming off of a 10-11 season to be entering their senior year with 76 wins to their names, three PacWest Conference Titles and a 45-0 League Record entering their final season wearing the Logger uniform.
“It’s been a crazy ride for sure, we came in as freshmen having no idea what we’re getting into and we’ve definitely grown coming into this year so I’m really excited to see what we’re going to do,” said Brooke Young on the last three years.
“It’s kind of crazy because we’ve played together basically our whole lives,” adds Kelsey Pollard on the last year of this senior group being together. “But it’s kind of weird that it’s our last year and then everyone’s going their separate ways.”
They still have one last season to leave it all out there and through the goofiness of the first practice on this cold February Monday afternoon day, Makenna Cooper taking a few minutes to play with her dog as she waits to take her turn in the batting cage; there was a sense that it was finally nice to get back out there and knocking off the rust of winter off their bats.
With a few girls like a Young, who took Fall off from softball due to a procedure she had done on her neck, the first-day of practice was a way to get back into the groove of things after playing throughout the summer.
“It’s really nice, especially since I took Fall off so I didn’t get the games I would normally get to do,” said Young on coming back to practice. “So it’s really exciting to come back and to play with the same group of girls I’ve grown up with.”
For Pollard, one of the dominate pitchers in 3A last year with a defense that allowed the third fewest runs in 3A with 71, was taking some warm-up pitches as the senior did Volleyball and basketball leading back into softball.
“It was nice, I guess I’ve been out-of-shape a little bit so it was a little rough,” said Pollard who’s been battling through a illness. “But I’ll get back into it just fine.”
Pollard will be returning most of her defense with the exception of Emily Unrau (catcher) and Nora Mikolas (second base) who graduated after last season’s third-straight semi-finals appearance.
Offensively is the same story with the fire-power they are returning as the Lady Loggers were anything short of like a in-house Homerun Race similar to what we saw in 1998 between Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa or this past season with Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton and J.D Martinez in 2017.
But, both sides of the diamond will be tested in 2018 as Scio’s facing playoff teams in Dayton (2017 State Finalist), Rainier (2017 State Champions), Plesant Hill and Harrisburg in 3A alone. From 2A, they’re facing playoff teams in Toledo, Kennedy (2017 State Semi-Finalist).
The Lady Loggers will play some 4A teams as well with North Valley (4A Play-In Team) twice, Cascade Christian (First-Round team), South Umpqua (First-Round Team) and Mazama (First-Round Team).
All of this competition all in order to help them get over the hump and get into and try to bring home the 3A State Championship Title.
“I think we need to treat the off-season games like a State Final games,” said Pollard. “Like we’re going to be playing some better teams in the finals so we need to remember how that feels playing them when we get to the finals because in league we don’t get that same competition.”
And as Day 1 wraps up, they have about two weeks to get ready to go and get the rust off as the Lady Trojans of Kennedy will be coming down from Mt. Angel to open-up the season at Scio on March 12.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald