By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Being a pitcher in the Mountain Valley Conference can be intimating with the bats coming from West Salem, McNary, Bend and even Sprague to face on a regular basis. Even McMinnville, West Albany and Forest Grove had their challenges dating back to the old Greater Valley Conference days back in South Salem Senior Alley Isaac’s freshman year under Head Coach Scott McCormick and his coaching staff.
But nonetheless, it presented a challenge bar none for pitchers to improve, adjust and work on their craft.
“Our league has always been extremely competitive and every game for the most part is a tough battle,” Isaac said, who was a MVC-Honorable Mention Selection as a Sophomore. “Playing at south has helped me so much, the coaching staff pushes us to our fullest potential every day and they always make sure we understand our adjustments on everything. Personally, I gained a lot of confidence from playing with friends who make competing so enjoyable.”
She remembers how they bounced back her sophomore year against Sprague in 2019, turning a tough 11-8 defeat when they met the first time April 10 at Sprague and won their next meeting 12-2 behind a solid defensive game that was backed up by a nice offensive rally.
“It was so exciting to watch ourselves perform so well,” Isaac said of that day against their rival.
The squad have been back together the past two weeks. Putting in work in hopes for a season this year. It’s been and probably will look different this year with the on-going pandemic, but like everyone else in the State and around them, they are making do with what they have to work with.
Overall, though, it’s been nice. McCormick and his staff have been pretty honest with them with what is happening around them.
“It’s been pretty nice; we’ve been focusing on working hard since our coaches were pretty straight forward at the beginning about what season may look like. We just know that we need to push ourselves so we can do our best for whatever kind of season we have,” Isaac starts. “I think we’ve been taking these obstacles pretty well; we know we need to be mature and open minded to anything at this point.”
A handful of girls on the team have played since the cancelation of their Spring season on a variety of travel softball teams. For Isaac, it was the Aloha Breeze 18A squad where she showcased her power with two home runs, six doubles and a triple to go with 23RBI’s on 25-for-66 hitting and pitching 40-and-two-third innings with 16 strikeouts.
It was relieving for sure to go out and do something normal over the Summer and Fall coming out of the Spring lockdown. A breath of fresh air literally and figuratively as she went back to her travel ball team that she’s been with since September of 2019.
“It was a lot of fun and relieving to get away from all of the craziness we were all dealing with at the time. It was so nice to get out of the house and to workout with my favorite people again. As much as I could complain about everything we missed out on last year, I learned to not take small things like that for granted,” Isaac said.
But the trick was, especially at Wallace Marine Park, was all the rules. Mask wearing in the dugout, social distancing and with their games at Wallace Marine Park, playing with the mask on top of working around an 80-, 90-minute time-limit.
It was tough remembering all of the rules Isaac said, but those pesky time limit games that ruin rallies that gets to a seasoned travel ball player like Isaac.
“It was hard to remember all of the rules like social distancing in dugouts and keeping masks up at all times, but it was frustrating when we had to work around game time limits at Wallace,” she said. “There were a lot of times when an extra inning would’ve helped us with winning but we had to go along with the time limit and take those losses.”
And though it’s uncertain what the future holds, not just for this season or moving forward, Isaac knows too she has to take any and every opportunity given to her.
“It has been extremely important to me to take advantage of every opportunity I’m given whether it has to do with school, softball or anything. This has given me a lot of motivation in general,” Isaac said.