By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– What a year the Chemeketa Community College softball team has had this Spring.
During the regional play season during the Spring of 2021, the Storm only won one game, a 8-7 win over Mount Hood Community College on April 10, 2021 in a season that saw the squad go 1-25.
Fast forward to this year however, under first-year Head Coach Klamath Henry, Chemketa went 13-22. Waldport’s Chas Walch leads the team with hits (39), South Salem’a Naomi Galanti has five home runs and Central’s Emily Cole has been pacing the squad in the circle with 133 strikeouts to help the Storm snap their five-year NWAC Tournament drought.
Chemeketa enters the 16-team bracket as the ten seed and will be opening up the bracket play Thursday against Clackamas Community College (20-15) at 10am in Spokane, Washington. A far-cry from their one-win season the year before.
It was like a brand-new start points Dallas-grad Zoe Whitlow as her, Walch and Newberg’s Jayden Yoder led a relatively young team into this season.
“It was like a clean slate, a brand new start and to be able to succeed as well as we did this year too…it was almost surprising too. We didn’t know what this season was going to be like. So it was so nice to, at least for me, Chas and Yoder to end our career with such a good season like this too,” Whitlow said, who’s hitting .298 with 9RBI’s on the season.
“It’s been a huge sigh of relief to have this year and it being my last year, I just think we’ve worked really hard. Our record this year compare to last year is so much better, and to make it to the tournament is just amazing for us. I think we’ve worked really hard and we’ve all bought in and that’s what it takes,” adds Walch.
Their schedule wasn’t necessarily the easiest either. They played 42-2 Walla Walla, pushing them in game 2 of their doubleheader on March 12 13-7. Keeping within eight of 30-5 Belluve in the two games the squads played and split with Edmonds, who sits behind the Storm at 13th in preseason.
The NWAC South Region was tough as they had number one Southwestern Oregon Community College, who Chemeketa took one from on April 5 6-5 and not to mention taking a game from number five Mount Hood and six Lower Columbia in league play. All the tough games have prepared them for this upcoming weekend.
“We did have a really tough South region. I think we’re going up there and playing teams that are going to be in our league (and) Walla Walla, which is a great team. Awesome hitting team, we saw them in preseason and rolling into our league and having the South Region like in the Top 10. It’s like ‘welp, we’ve seen the best’ and we know what to do to beat them,” Walch said.
Six teams, including Chemeketa, made it to the NWAC Field of 16. Centralia, who finished 13-21, enters the postseason as the lowest ranked South Region team at 15.
And as they ironically open the 16-team, double elimination tournament Thursday morning in Spokane, Washington, they’ll face a familiar face in the Cougars. The lesson learned from their four-game series during the regular season, a doubleheader on April 2 and another on May 4, is to jump on it quickly and keep at it for the entirety of the game.
“We have to jump early. When we played them the second time up in Clackamas, we have to jump on them early, get ahead and stay ahead,” Whitlow said. “We have to play our game for sure and stay in control of it. We’ve beaten them before and we’re capable of it. We just need to have the right mindset that we can do this and I think we’ll be set.”
If they win, they’ll play again at 3:30pm Thursday against the winner of Walla Walla and Centralia. Lose and they’ll play again at 3 against the loser of Walla Walla and Centralia.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald