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Archive for the ‘Softball’ Category

With Orcas Island stepping away from spring sports, Daniel Olson’s senior season dips from 10 games to nine. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

And then there were six.

Things change at a moment’s notice in the Age of Coronavirus, and Wednesday brought a new wrinkle.

Orcas Island informed Northwest 2B/1B League officials it will not begin athletics until students return to in-person education.

Currently, the expectation is for that to happen in late March, though nothing is guaranteed.

With a condensed spring sports season running from February 22 to April 3, Orcas is out, with the hope it will be back in when traditional fall sports run March 29 to May 8.

The Vikings are the second group of NWL athletes to bow out due to COVID-19 concerns, as Chimacum already opted to delay joining what is intended to be an eight-team league.

Chimacum combined with next-door neighbor Port Townsend for the 2020-2021 school year, and the schools are playing in the 1A/2A Olympic League as East Jefferson.

With Orcas stepping away from spring sports, two Coupeville teams lose a total of four games from already pared-down schedules.

The Wolf softball squad was set to host the Vikings March 13, then join the CHS baseball team in traveling to Orcas March 23.

That road trip was to feature a softball doubleheader and a lone hardball contest.

With the changes, Coupeville softball sees its schedule shrink from 12 to nine games, while Wolf baseball goes from 10 to nine.

CHS track and girls tennis are unaffected, as Orcas doesn’t field teams in those sports.

 

UPDATE #1: A trip to Friday Harbor has been added to the schedule on March 19, bringing both Coupeville diamond schedules up to 10 games.

 

UPDATE #2: Softball will play a home doubleheader March 6 against Friday Harbor, instead of the previously-planned single game, raising its schedule back to 11 games. 

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After a year off due to COVID-19, Izzy Wells and Co. are back to reclaim the diamond. (Karen Carlson photo)

It’s been a long time coming.

Coupeville High School softball players are back on the field and ready to play games again for the first time since the 2019 state tournament.

The COVID-19 shutdown cost the Wolves the 2020 season and prevented four-year players such as Emma Mathusek and Scout Smith from experiencing their senior season.

But, while that hurts, the focus when players opened practice Monday was a positive one, said CHS coach Kevin McGranahan.

“I have 22 girls as of today and ALL of them have been practicing when we could throughout the last year,” he said. “They have all stuck by the program and are anxious to get the season going.

“I could not be more proud of this team,” McGranahan added.

“I am always proud of my teams, but this particular set of girls have endured through the last year and finally get to showoff a little bit.”

Leading the way will be five players from that 2019 team, which won a North Sound Conference title, finished second at districts, then advanced to state for the third time in program history.

Seniors Chelsea Prescott, Mollie Bailey, and Coral Caveness are joined by juniors Izzy Wells and Audrianna Shaw.

Wells was Coupeville’s #1 pitcher as a freshman, while Prescott has been one of her team’s most-dangerous hitters since day one of her own 9th grade season.

Bailey held down third base for the 2019 state team, and also has plenty of experience as a catcher, while Caveness and Shaw played multiple positions.

The five-pack are key as the Wolves move into their home in the Northwest 2B/1B League.

“Gonna need all of them to step up and lead the younger players that have never seen varsity time due to COVID,” McGranahan said.

Coral Caveness, one of three Coupeville seniors, last played at the 2019 state tourney. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Among key newcomers for the Wolves are a group of “redshirt freshmen” — sophomores who never got to play last spring and are “talented, but very inexperienced at this level.”

These include Gwen Gustafson (pitcher/centerfield), Jill Prince (infield), and the deadly duo of Allie and Maya Lucero (infield).

Outfielder Lacy McCraw-Shirron, who transferred to Coupeville before last season, but never got on the field, is also expected to contribute.

Regardless of which of the 22 players get on the field, and in what positions, McGranahan will be there to preach hard work and improvement.

“We have strong leaders in our seniors, and our defense will be pretty solid with a scrappy offense,” he said. “(But we need to work on) softball IQ – we have to get better with our softball knowledge of the game and strategies.

“This is only because we are getting so young and inexperienced due to COVID; not a knock on the girls at all,” McGranahan added. “They just have to be able to learn quickly.”

Along with the time off, Coupeville is making the transition from 1A to 2B, with a new group of foes.

With schools playing shortened seasons as they return from the pandemic shutdown, the Wolves are scheduled for 12 games, all against league opponents.

They’ll play five games against fellow 2B schools La Conner (3) and Friday Harbor (2), with seven against 1B foes Orcas Island (3), Darrington (2), and Concrete (2).

Mount Vernon Christian (1B) doesn’t play softball, while Chimacum (2B) delayed its move to the NWL until the 2021-2022 school year.

There won’t be any playoffs this season, with the hope that things will be back to “normal” in the spring of 2022.

In particular, McGranahan, who enjoys having his team “play up,” is looking forward to when CHS Athletic Director Willie Smith can return to adding extra games to the schedule.

“I hope in future seasons we can play the 1A schools out of conference to challenge our girls, because they respond to a challenge.”

Which doesn’t mean the Wolves aren’t swinging for the fences this time out.

“Our goals are to win the league and develop the younger talent that lost a very big developmental year last season,” McGranahan said.

“Friday Harbor will be our biggest challenge from what I can tell,” he added. “They were getting pretty good before COVID, so I expect them to be our new rival.

“But with everyone having a year off, anyone could have gotten better.”

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Sarah Wright

No games, but good grades.

As she waits for softball to return from its COVID-19 shutdown, Coupeville’s Sarah Wright has remained a force in the classroom.

The former Wolf was one of 12 diamond dandies to make the Dean’s List for the Advent Semester of the 2020-21 academic year at Sewanee: The University of the South.

To be eligible for the Dean’s List, a student must have a semester average of 3.625 or higher after completing a semester with credit for at least three and one-half academic courses, at least three of which were taken for a grade.

Wright and her teammates topped the entire school, in fact, as their team GPA of 3.781 was the best posted by any Tigers athletic squad.

Softball was followed by women’s swim/dive (3.597), men’s cross country (3.589), women’s cross country (3.572), and volleyball (3.561).

Wright, a Valedictorian and four-sport athlete during her time in Coupeville, is a sophomore at Sewanee.

While Tigers softball has been sidelined during the pandemic, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

School officials have said Sewanee spring sports teams may compete, but only at home, with no travel involved.

No games have officially been set yet, but there is talk the team may play in late February/early March, Wright said.

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Central Whidbey Little League players are revved up and more than ready to return to the diamond. (Jackie Saia photo)

The fate of Central Whidbey Little League is in your hands.

As registration opens for a potential spring season, the search for a new generation of volunteers to run things is at its most-crucial point.

Virtually every member of the current CWLL board has a child who is about to “age out” of play, meaning new parents (or aunts and uncles, or grandparents, or just community-minded folk) will need to step up to keep things going.

There is a genuine potential that if enough new volunteers don’t surface, the league might vanish next year, leaving Coupeville kids with the choice of traveling to Oak Harbor or South Whidbey to play baseball or softball.

“We are in dire need of volunteers in every capacity,” said CWLL President Gordon McMillan. “These include managers, coaches, umpires, concession stand workers, food handlers, scorekeepers, and board members.”

For those on the fence about volunteering, the league invites them to join its next open board meeting February 1 at 6 PM to “ask questions, give your input, and to see how you can help CWLL be successful.”

With everyone still living in the Age of Coronavirus, CWLL is approaching registration with “excited” caution.

The league is working with little league officials and Island County’s Health and Parks departments to plan for a “safe and successful season with proper mitigation in response to the virus.”

Current plans, if county and state health department protocols can be met:

March 3 — Practices start
March 6 – May 29 — Minors and Majors baseball and softball season
May 1 – June 15 — T-Ball season
May 22 – June 30 — Juniors baseball and softball season

But with so much uncertainty, CWLL won’t collect any money at the present time.

Instead, each registered player will be placed on a hold list. Once there is definitive confirmation of a season, emails will be sent out with instructions on how to finish registration and pay.

To register a player, obtain a volunteer application form, or nab the link to the board meeting, pop over to:

Home (centralwhidbeylittleleague.com)

 

For questions, email Gordon McMillan at centralwhidbeyll@gmail.com or call him at (206) 550-7146 between the hours of 12-4 PM.

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Chloe Wheeler let her bat do her talking. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

The quietest Wolf was loudest when it mattered most.

During the spring of 2019, I did something I haven’t done in the eight-year history of Coupeville Sports — attend every single game, home or away, for one team.

Writing this blog is a delicate, often tricky, balancing act, trying to be “fair” to all teams, and all sports.

You’ll always have some people who are grateful for whatever coverage their preferred rooting cause gets, and some who claim bias or neglect. It is what it is.

But in spring 2019, while still writing about every CHS track and field, baseball, tennis, and soccer contest — and attending a lot of those games and meets in person — I absolutely played favorites.

I hit the road with Darren and Kelly Crownover, parents of homer-thumping first-baseman Veronica, making it to every road game — even the ones rained out moments after we got there.

And, even when presented with multiple events on the same day here in Cow Town, I opted for the softball sluggers.

Turned out to be a smart choice, as that was the Wolf squad which went the furthest as a united team, returning to the state tourney for the first time in five seasons, and winning a game there for the first time since 2002.

As the guy forever hanging around the edge as CHS softball made its run, filled with a few heartrending losses, and a lot of epic wins, I had a chance to see the Wolf players in all their many moods.

Whether dancing on a rain-soaked field after a long, fruitless trip to Sultan, going bonkers after freshman Izzy Wells struck out the league’s most-dangerous slugger to cap the win which sent them to a league title, or just killing time on countless ferries, it was a team made up of wildly-diverse personalities.

One of my favorites quickly became Chloe Wheeler, a junior who bopped along like a feminine version of Matthew McConaughey, her grin often her only statement to the outside world.

As the season played out, I found out more about her — Darren Crownover can make anyone talk — and her plans for the future.

Chloe is highly-intelligent, a kind, caring young woman who proved on the diamond, and off, to be exceptionally-strong.

On a 2019 Wolf team which boasted the big bats of Sarah Wright and Veronica Crownover, and the explosive talents of young stars such as Chelsea Prescott and Scout Smith, she didn’t play every day.

But Chloe was ready every day.

Plug her in to the lineup, and she responded, giving you every ounce of hustle she had in the field and at the plate.

And, time and again, she proved to be an absolute killer in the spotlight.

A quiet assassin at the plate.

Her first high school hit was a thing of beauty, coming deep in the wilds at Granite Falls against the team which gave Coupeville its biggest struggle.

The Wolves and Tigers split four games in 2019, with CHS winning the last two, including a key playoff game which sent Granite home.

But, earlier in the season, as Coupeville tried to rally in the twilight, Chloe strode to the plate and launched a missile, rifling a two-run double to the deepest, darkest part of left field.

After watching her teammates struggle with the bat all afternoon, the quiet one mashed the crud out of the whirling orb, and it lit a fire under her fellow Wolves.

Hanging on the dugout fence, screaming Chloe’s name, they were reinvigorated, recharged, and rowdy as all get-out.

Granite Falls didn’t know it then, but what seemed like a surefire path to a league title and a trip to state for the Tigers vanished in that exact moment.

For the first time, you could see the Wolves really, truly no longer feared their hit-happy foes.

And, while that rally fell just short, they haven’t lost to Granite since.

As she quietly bounced on the bag at second, slight smile on her face, Chloe was already locked-in on CHS coach Kevin McGranahan, working over in the third-base coaching box.

Always ready, always watchful.

The moment was big, it was impactful, and it could have been the highlight of Chloe’s season.

But then she went to the biggest dance, and went bonkers.

Chloe started the state tourney on the bench, part of the support crew as Coupeville was drilled by eventual state champ Montesano.

Given a pinch-hit at-bat late in the game, however, she proved to be the one Wolf who was absolutely perfect against the reincarnation of the 1927 Yankees.

Breaking up Montesano’s bid for a shutout, and pissing off its thoroughly irritating coach, Chloe crunched an RBI single to right-center.

Her refusal to back down against a dominant team, and a loudly-braying coach, earned her the start in games #2 and #3 on a long day for Coupeville.

Chloe’s bat stayed scorchin’ down the stretch, as she racked up three more hits across a 14-2 demolishing of highly-ranked Deer Park and a gut-wrenching 8-6 loss to Cle Elum.

With four base-knocks in Richland, she had made a name for herself while the biggies in the sport watched.

After one of her hot smashes back up the middle, the coach from perennial power Castle Rock, camped in the bleachers during his team’s break, pointed at Chloe, and softly said something to his assistant.

The words were unclear, but the approval was obvious.

Coming within a play (or two, at most) of advancing to day two of state and likely earning some hardware, the Wolves capped the second-best performance in program history.

While there was sadness in the aftermath, there was hard-earned pride, and the unmistakable feeling this was the start of a run of success for the Wolf diamond queens.

Chloe likely would have been a full-time starter her senior year, and I firmly believe she was on her way to a true breakout season.

The pandemic denied her that opportunity, but her rep as a big-game killer was already set in stone.

When we talk about the highlights of CHS softball during its four-decade-plus run, Chloe Wheeler, the quiet assassin with the wicked bat, will forever hold a place in that conversation.

So today, we take a moment to pay tribute to her, inducting her into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame for being an inspiration to local athletes at every level.

She worked and she fought, and when Chloe got her chance, she made the absolute most of it. The way you hope every Wolf does.

After this, when you stroll past the top of the blog, you’ll find her hanging out under the Legends tab.

And why not? She earned it.

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