By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore– Hitting was South Salem Softball’s bread and butter last season, being the lead run producer entering the 6A playoffs last season, but the difficult thing for them was their defense that inhibited them overall.
“Conversely we were giving up close to seven runs. We saw us being even better offensively this year. To take the next step we need to become more consistent in the area of pitching and defense,” said Saxon Head Coach Scott McCormick. “We will need our pitchers to be able to throw strikes and get outs when needed and our defense to back them up for us to be successful. We worked very hard in the off season and preseason practices to get better in these areas and we were seeing real positive progress. “
With a Mountain Valley Conference schedule, with the season schedule to start April 28 that includes Bend, West Salem and McNary on it, the Saxons know they can’t just rely on their bats alone to duplicate their success last year.
Success that started off with a tough preseason schedule in 2019 with West Albany, Dallas, Barlow and Grants Pass eventually led to stunning back-to-back wins over West Salem (16-6 on April 12) and McNary (11-8 on April 16) on in a season which South Salem finished 15-11 and 9-5 in the MVC.
“Defensive work is extremely important to us because we have very strong hitting opponents, and we know that we can’t rely on our hitting abilities alone. From reflecting on the mistakes we made last year, we can focus on those weaknesses to prevent repeating our defensive mistakes,” said Alley Issac.
“After seeing what we are all capable of last year, we knew that we had something going. During the off season, we were all very motivated to strengthen all aspects of the game, so going into season now we have more confidence than before. Me and the other pitchers at South know that our teammates are working hard, so we have been pushing ourselves to make the work worth it.”
Issac and Alivia Benavidez return for the circle for the Saxons once the season kicks off. They’re joined by Jazzy Young, who was at North Salem last year, who will add more depth at pitching and hitting.
“How we roll will depend a lot on what we get from these three,” said McCormick of his pitching staff.
McCormick is excited to see big break-out years from Naomi Galanti, Emma Cordero from behind the dish and Bella Fleener taking over in the outfield in a sophomore group that also features slugger Delaney Keith. Keith got first-team All-MVC and Third-team All-State as a freshman.
Senior Mia Reece will be relied on for stability and be an anchor for the Saxon infield that will have freshman Hallie Olsen in it. Freshmen Mackenzie Scott will be a player to watch along with Desi Hatfield in the infield. The youth with the current wave of sophomores and freshman has a foundation that has McCormick ready to see how they develop moving forward.
“I want to add that we are excited about how strong our freshmen class is. Besides the 3 mentioned above there are 3-4 more freshmen on our JV team that were battling for varsity spots all through tryouts. Along with our sophomore group we have a really good core going forward,” said McCormick.
The biggest thing McCormick mentioned was their consistency problems, something that Isaac echoed as well as they await to see if they’ll play on the basepaths this Spring or not coming off of the learning curve and being able to read-and-react on the run.
“That was part of the excitement about this season. Believing and seeing us do that,” said McCormick. “Our hitting was going to be better, our pitching was going to be better, our defense was going to be better.”
It’ll be very important because this long quarantine of not practicing with our coaches or even as a team will define everybody’s results if we start our high school season. Even though team dynamics at all schools are thrown off, this gives us a chance to strive and achieve the goals we missed last year,’ adds Isaac.