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Posts Tagged ‘Softball’

They teach, you learn. (Photo courtesy Gerry Oliver)

One of the most-successful college softball programs in the nation is coming to Whidbey Island.

The University of Washington will hold a skills clinic October 26 at Oak Harbor High School for local softball players ages 8-17.

Cost is $75 for a 90-minute all-skills portion, or $50 for a 60-minute pitching clinic.

For registration info, pop back up to the photo above.

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Veronica Crownover, home-run hitting prairie legend. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Now a college player, Crownover (back, center) had four hits, including a long ball, as Wazzu won two of three on opening weekend. (Photo courtesy Kelly Crownover)

Different town, different uniform, same booming bat.

Coupeville High School grad Veronica Crownover made her college softball debut this weekend, and she filled the Pullman sky with the sight of a bashed ball flying far, far away.

Just the way she used to do it as a Wolf.

Crownover is now a freshman at Washington State University, and she and her teammates on the school’s club softball squad took two of three games from visiting Boise State.

The Cougars dropped the season opener Saturday, falling 11-3, then bounced back to sweep a doubleheader Sunday, winning 9-5 and 13-4.

Crownover’s bat was smokin’ in the 38-degree weather, as she peppered Bronco pitching.

After picking up her first two collegiate hits and coming around to score in Sunday’s opener, she smacked a third single to open the nightcap, then went deep.

Her two-run home run was still climbing as it cleared the center-field fence 310 feet away, while parents Darren and Kelly out-screamed the entire rest of the fan base of both teams.

Trotting home with her first college tater, Veronica Crownover, who has picked up the nickname “Bro” from her Wazzu teammates (since she uses the word as a noun, verb, and adjective in most conversations), was all smiles.

“Today was a really good day,” she said. “I can die happy.”

Along with her offensive explosion, Crownover was her usual slick-fielding presence at first base, pulling in throws no matter where they were headed.

The Cougars, who play year-round, return to action the last weekend of October, when they’ll put their 2-1 record on the line against Gonzaga.

During her time in Coupeville, Crownover earned a truck load of softball awards from her team and various leagues for her play.

Before graduating last spring, she and fellow Wolf seniors Sarah Wright and Nicole Laxton led CHS to the state tournament in Richland, where Coupeville won a game for the first time since 2002.

The Wolves held up well against eventual state champ Montesano, upset Deer Park, which had taken out the defending state champs, then came within a play of also knocking off Cle Elum.

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After four seasons of blasting dingers for Coupeville, Veronica Crownover (and her boomin’ bat) will play for the Washington State University softball team. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Good-bye, softball.

Veronica Crownover isn’t ready to retire just yet.

The 2019 Coupeville High School grad, who launched towering home-runs to all fields and made opposing pitchers cry sweet, sweet tears during her time as a prep softball slugger, has officially made the team at Washington State University.

Tryouts were this week, and the former Wolf first-baseman impressed with both her glove and bat. The Wazzu freshman is in the mix for a starting position, as well.

Washington State competes as an NCAA D-I school in 11 sports, and supplements those varsity programs with 27 club sports teams.

Softball, which has been active at WSU since 1996, is part of the club system, along with sports such as wrestling, ice hockey, bowling, cricket, rugby, and lacrosse.

The Cougar softball team is a member of the National Club Softball Association, which boasts 143 colleges.

Wazzu plays out of the Pacific – North division, which also includes club teams from the University of Oregon, Eastern Washington University, Boise State University, and Gonzaga University.

Games begin in October, and Crownover and her new teammates play in both the fall and spring.

The former Wolf will have a busy schedule, as she’s also pulling a double major, studying Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Sciences along with Zoology, while being on a pre-vet track.

While that makes for a lot of class time, mixed with life on the diamond, it’s something Crownover has handled before.

She graduated twice this spring, earning degrees from both CHS and Skagit Valley College.

Her softball roots go back to little league, when she and future high school teammates like Sarah Wright, who will play for Sewanee: The University of the South this year, tore up the diamond.

Once she hit high school, Crownover made an immediate impact, earning All-League honors as a freshman, then adding enough awards over the next three years to build her own shrine.

She was a nimble defensive player at first base, providing a soft mitt for her fellow infielders to aim for, while pulling in just about any throw which came within 10 feet of her.

But it was Crownover’s bat, “Thunder,” which made her reputation.

The sultan of swat carved up pitcher after pitcher, from future D1 hurlers like Klahowya’s Amber Bumbalough and South Whidbey’s Mackenzee Collins, to the best playoff rivals could throw her way.

She crashed a home run deep over a very tall left-field fence at Oak Harbor to stun Coupeville’s big-city rivals, hurt South Whidbey so badly, so often that the Falcons intentionally walked her multiple times in one game, and played her best in the spotlight.

Crownover and Wright, along with fellow senior Nicole Laxton, led the Wolves to the state tourney this spring, where they won for the first time since 2002.

That victory came against Deer Park, a juggernaut which had upended the defending state champs, and CHS also came within a play of knocking off Cle Elum at the big dance.

Playing three games in one day at the state tourney in Richland (the Wolves also tangled with eventual state champ Montesano), Crownover went out in style, swinging for the fences and freakin’ out rival pitchers.

Now, she gets to go out and do it all again, just in a different uniform.

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Jordyn Rogers, heaving the shot put as an 8th grader, was a three-sport athlete at Coupeville Middle School. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Rogers put in strong work at a summer volleyball camp at the University of Florida.

There’s another one on the way.

When Jordyn Rogers hits high school in September, she’ll be following in the footsteps of older siblings Chris and Ashleigh Battaglia, who have both been successful in multiple sports.

But the little sister is intent on making a name for herself, and recently spent a chunk of her summer getting ready for her debut as a freshman volleyball player.

Rogers took part in a summer spiker camp at the University of Florida, a school she’d like to attend once she hits college age.

While there, the incoming Wolf freshman was selected as a camper of the day while fine-tuning her volleyball skill set.

A three-sport athlete at CMS, where she played basketball and competed in track and field to go with volleyball, Rogers plans to shake things up a bit at the high school level.

She currently plans to drop basketball, and switch out track and field for softball when spring rolls around.

The one thing staying the same is volleyball, which she has played at both the school and club level.

“Volleyball is my favorite sport because it makes me happy and it’s fun learning the different things about it,” Rogers said.

“I would like to focus mainly on volleyball and try my best to be a part of every function they have, but stay active throughout the school year.”

Away from the court, she enjoys spending time with family and friends, while, in the classroom, she’s fascinated with what’s happening in the atmosphere.

“I love to learn about weather and would like to have a future in that field,” Rogers said.

While her brother and sister have set a positive example for her, on and off the playing field, her parents, Brian and Amanda Rogers, have played a crucial role in her life.

“My parents have always believed in me,” Jordyn said. “And when I wanted a bigger challenge, they would help with that.”

Like all young volleyball players, she’s working hard on every aspect of her game, from serves to sets to spikes.

But she’s also focusing on the smaller, but sometimes even more important skills, such as meshing well with her teammates. Having a well-rounded game should translate to future success.

“Being an athlete challenges me to always do my best and helps me to be more of a team player,” Rogers said. “I think my strengths are sportsmanship and dedication.

“I would like to work on keeping my head up and always striving to be a better team player.”

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Sarah Wright, softball terminator. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Get you someone who looks at you the way Wright looks at confetti.

The Wright Express comes in hot.

“You’re running … ON ME???? Oh, you foolish child!”

A prairie legend forever.

Sarah Wright is a tornado of fun.

She blows through, rips up the joint, throws the furniture up on the roof, but leaves everyone smiling afterwards.

As I have covered her exploits through the years, from youth sports, to middle school, and then on through four fast n’ furious years of high school, she was as entertaining an athlete as any I’ve ever seen.

Talented? Without a doubt.

But with Sarah, it was always about how much fun she was having out there, whether it be a pressure-packed game at the state tournament, or a random practice on a Tuesday afternoon in the middle of the season.

She worked her tail off, fought for success, screamed her lungs out, and got every last scrap of enjoyment she could from her sports.

Volleyball to soccer, basketball to her truest love of them all, softball, Wright never lost the joy little league athletes have, even when she was finally old enough to work as their hitting coach.

Whether she was threatening to eat worms while watching her JV teammates play, laughing until she could barely stand, or feeding seagulls in the parking lot in between state playoff games, running and giggling as the birds pecked at her sandwich, Sarah was, and is, pure giddy joy.

Not that she couldn’t be deadly serious, mind you.

Wright sacrificed her body, time and again, and when it was time to compete, she wanted to win as badly as she wanted to enjoy life in her down time.

As a softball catcher, she bore the brunt of long hours hunched down in the dirt.

Her hands stinging from knocking down wayward balls, her body sore from standing tall and taking the brunt of the explosion when rival players were dumb enough to try and knock her down during plays at the plate.

During her travel ball tournaments, or during Coupeville’s playoff runs, you would see Sarah walk away, looking like a (sometimes very tired) warrior.

Eye black on, smeared by sweat and dirt, her uniform streaked in dust, her mitt in one hand, her mask in the other, she resembled a gladiator coming back from the pits and you knew she left a trail of bodies behind her.

And then, two steps later, she’d suddenly start laughing, and by the time she reached the dugout she was singing in a voice which carried across the field.

I watched Sarah win big games during her career, and take some tough losses, but, in the end, whether her heart was soaring or breaking, she was happy to be in that uniform, to have that mitt and mask, to just play.

She was a solid volleyball player, a take-charge soccer goalie, a pounder in the paint on the basketball court, but she was at home on the softball diamond.

She loved it, and it loved her back.

Knowing Sarah gets to play college softball, even if it will be far away from Coupeville, makes me happy.

It means she gets to keep cracking tape-measure home runs.

Or bashing doubles that she turns into triples, legs pounding as she comes crashing into third-base in a giant cloud of dust, followed by her looking up at CHS coach Kevin McGranahan with a huge grin and saying “I told you I’d make it … Keeeeevvvvviiiiinnn.”

She’ll be zinging throws from behind the plate, sprawled out, firing off the wrong leg and, somehow, still nailing straying runners.

“Another notch on the ol’ gun belt there, Kevin, my boy!”

Sarah stepped onto the CHS softball field and was a starter at the hardest position from day one of her freshman season.

The only thing which kept her waiting that long was the silly Washington state high school rule book, which prevented her from playing varsity high school ball during her middle school days.

Swap rule books with a state like Kentucky and she would have been making rival high school coaches rip out their hair back when she was 12.

Through it all, as Wright came within a play or two of making it to state as a sophomore and junior, then got over the hump as a senior, she was a bonafide leader.

Vocal, the very definition of loud ‘n proud, whether in the dugout, face first in the prairie dust, or running through the parking lot as the Seagull Queen, she will never truly be replaced.

Yes, someone else will be behind the plate next season, and in the years to come.

Hopefully they will have strong careers, and, hopefully, they will enjoy their days on the diamond as much as Sarah did hers.

But you don’t truly replace the legends.

Whether it’s Hailey Hammer, or Breeanna Messner, or Wright, after they’re gone, you can close your eyes the next time you’re in the stands at the CHS diamond, and you will see them still out there playing.

For now, she leaves her field, her town, but she’s not truly going anywhere, because our memories of her will last.

There was never really a doubt Sarah would one day be walking (actually, sprinting while giggling and throwing sandwich bits in the air) into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame.

I knew it when I watched her play in middle school and little league, and nothing changed my mind as she traveled her journey.

So, after this, you’ll find her at the top of the blog, up under the Legends tab.

And, you’ll find her in the memories of Wolf fans.

Long after her last high school award, her final banquet, the last time she took off a Wolf uniform she wore with genuine pride and joy, Sarah will still be out there, gunnin’ and grinnin’ as the sun sets across the prairie.

Covered in dirt from head to toe, tackling her teammates in joy, standing on the dugout bench, batting helmet jammed backwards on her head, screaming “GET OFF HER, BALL!!!,” having the time of her life.

There is only one Sarah Wright, and we were very lucky to have her.

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