By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– During Talia Perez’ first year on the Varsity level as a sophomore for the West Salem Titans, there was a nice little mix between older and younger players as Perez took to the Varsity field for the first-time in her High School career.
“My experience playing varsity sophomore year was super fun and I was able to be a solid player for the team both hitting and in the outfield, allowing me to make second team all-conference,” Perez said. “It was also great being able to learn from the older players on the team.
“The older players on the team were all good role models for me in showing what effective leadership looks like, especially the other players in the outfield with me were seniors with a lot of varsity experience.”
Perez, a second-team All-Mountain Valley Conference selection that year, and West Salem went 16-12 and reached the 6A State First-round before falling to Westview in a close 3-1 playoff game on a team that featured five upperclassmen to seven underclassmen. Gaining valuable Varsity experience in the process in a repeat performance this past Spring before the Coronavirus Pandemic derailed her and her class’ Junior season.
But instead of sitting back, like several of her Titan teammates, Perez went out to put in the work during the off-season once the first shutdown ended. Playing for the Salem Aftershock in the Summer and joining the Aloha Breeze for the Fall season, putting in work in the outfield as well as pitching. Showing off her versatility and adaptability.
“This past summer and fall allowed me to continue improving my softball abilities both in the field and pitching despite missing out on having a high school season last year,” Perez said who struck out 47 batters in 22 appearances. “I think that this last year has taught me to be a more adaptable and versatile person, as the state of whether my teams were allowed to play or not was changing on a sometimes-weekly basis, this versatility will hopefully help me prepare for any future bumps in the road this upcoming high school season holds.”
Some tournaments had rules about which teams were allowed to play in the tournaments based on the pandemic. Masks were worn in others on the field in others and all had masks required in the dugout.
Perez admits that she is expecting to be out in the field when hopefully the season kicks off for West Salem in April, but the ability to build the confidence and consistency during the Summer and Fall will help if Head Coach Ty Nicholson needs her to relieve Aliyah Wiltsey at any point in the season.
Another plus from the 36 games Perez had played in was the ability to adapt to two new teams, stepping away from the Aftershock to play with the Aloha Breeze 18A team in the Fall. It took awhile for her to find her voice with the team, but that was one of the benefits she picked up as Perez made up for lost time with the cancelation of her Junior season.
“I think it took some getting used to the change but after that I was able to fit right in with the team and communicate well on the field,” said Perez. “I played mostly centerfield on both teams and I think this past year I have been able to work on my communication skills and leadership in the outfield and I hope to continue increasing my fielding range as I go into the upcoming season.”
Overall however, she grew to appreciate the game she loved and saw shelved for a few months as things are slowly beginning to look up entering 2021.
“I was very sad about missing out on my junior season, but it made me appreciate every game I did get to play this summer even more and I am even more determined now to have a great senior season,” said Perez. “Along with this social distancing during the pandemic also made me appreciate the time I was able to spend with my teammate even more.”