By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Last year North Salem High School Softball coach had four freshman starting on the field as the Lady Vikings doubled their win total from two in 2016 to four in 2017, laying the foundation for what should be another step in the right direction for the North Salem Softball program.
“Having the five freshman last year was very important to building our base, this year we have another freshman on Varsity,” said Elders. “So we basically six new players to the program on the Varsity team but they’re all very talented, very skilled players.”
Of those freshman, three returned that include second baseman Alexis Figueroa who led the team in batting average and fielding percentage last season. Third baseman sophomore Bryana Hernandez too returns after finishing second in batting average and fielding percentage.
Briana Vasquez, who switched time between first, second and left field as a freshman, returns from a torn ACL-injury suffered in the third game of the season last season. Her return too adds a lefty to the lineup and the field for the Vikings.
As they went indoors for Thursday’s practice, two new faces at the pitching mound were taking turns throwing as they practice picking off players at second base with one of those pitchers being Celine Santos who were taking turns pitching to Kailey Miotke behind the plate as fellow senior Celino Gonzales will be lining up at center field this season.
“Those workouts made me improve strength-wise and speed-wise,” said Santos on her improvement personally as her team look to improve upon their 4-18 season. “I think last year showed us a lot about communication and teamwork. Just got to keep a positive mindset, just making sure we’re keeping each other up and not to get down.”
The goal for Elders is to try to double up on wins as he did from the year before he took over the program to last season and again entering this season. And it’s possible to see further growth from this team this season thanks in part to the OSAA pilot program that allowed programs like softball to take advantage of ‘open periods’ in which athletes can partake in a specific sport to help them in a stretch of no more than nine hours a week during the open period times.
“I think with the amount of work we’ve been putting in and with the new 6A rule where you go six-weeks, six-weeks, six-weeks, six-weeks it helped them out tremendously. They’ve been in there in the weight room, they’ve been to almost all the workouts that we’ve had all season long.
“All of them were almost at every off-season workout that we had. So they’re working well together as a team, the team bonding is there. The communication is above the charts this year, I mean they’re a team that’s ready to go out there and compete now.”
The season starts for the Lady Vikings on March 13 at home versus Crescent Valley before going to Century Wednesday afternoon.