Issaquah set sights on challenging for KingCo softball title

March 30, 2010

By Bob Taylor

Spartans, Patriots improve in off season

Mikenzie Voves (center) comes off the field in 2009 with happy teammates after striking out 12 in a marathon 10-inning winning performance against Woodinville. — By Greg Farrar

Jim Magnuson resigned as Issaquah High School’s fastpitch coach following the 2009 season. However, Magnuson is back this season.

School officials talked him into returning for what will be his eighth year with the Eagles, who were 4A KingCo Conference Crest Division co-champs a year ago.

Whether Issaquah can duplicate last year’s success will depend largely on the development of some young players. Seven four-year starter Eagles from last spring’s team graduated.

Skyline hopes to challenge Issaquah in the Crest Division while Liberty has hopes of becoming a contender in the 3A/2A KingCo Conference.

Eagles strong on the mound

Issaquah’s strength figures to be pitching with the return of Mikenzie Voves and Brielle Bray. Voves, a senior, will be the Eagles’ No. 1 pitcher. She earned first-team all-KingCo honors last spring.

In addition to being a strong hurler, Voves also does well in the classroom. In fact, she will attend the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League school, in the fall.

Bray led 4A KingCo in saves last year.

The two pitchers will be throwing to a new catcher now that former KingCo MVP Molly Nelson, a four-year starter, has graduated. Taking over behind home plate is freshman Heather Benjamin, a very experienced select team catcher.

The infield will be young, but should be solid with Christian McKone at shortstop, Traci Castonguay at third base, Amanda Marques at second base and Bray at first base. McKone and Bray both played in the outfield last spring.

The outfield features returners Chelsea Peart and Shannon Heneghan.

Issaquah has faced some hurdles already this season. The new school construction has impacted the team, as the Eagles have no indoor facility to practice in during inclement weather. The batting cages were also taken down to facilitate the construction of the tennis courts adjacent to the softball field.

Skyline has new coach

Skyline seems to be building a new team for 2010. New coach Alison Mitchell said she likes what she sees so far in the Spartans. The team went 7-15 overall (6-10 league) in 2009, after losing too many close games decided by one bad inning, she said.

But with a deep lineup of experienced seniors and juniors, Mitchell said Skyline should be more competitive against the likes of perennial powerhouses like Bothell, Woodinville and Lake Washington.

Key returning players include senior pitchers Elizabeth Stromquist and Lauren Richards, as well as catcher Lauren Wolfe, first-baseman Amy Ziegler, shortstop Lindsey Nicholson and second-baseman Amanda Nemiroff. Senior outfielder and junior third-baseman Anya Kamber round out the returning roster.

“I think we’re going to surprise a lot of teams,” Mitchell said. “They really want it this year.”

Skyline might do so with stronger hitting and a focus on endurance conditioning. Mitchell said the team spends the last 45 minutes of each practice running. Communication will play a huge role in Skyline’s success this season too, she said.

The key to winning will be, “timely hitting, and the kids are going to have to be aggressive with their bats,” she said. “On defense, they really gotta know how to protect the short game.”

Patriots get big win

Liberty got a big victory March 24, when the Patriots defeated Kennedy Catholic 3-2. Kennedy Catholic had won its first four games of the season and was tied for the lead in the Seamount League.

For the Patriots, the victory was their first of the season and snapped a four-game losing streak. The timing couldn’t have been better as the Patriots enter 3A/2A KingCo play next week.

Jessica Johnson, a Liberty graduate, is back for her second year as the Patriots’ head coach.

“We’re excited to have a year under our belt as a team. We graduated four seniors and added one freshman, so there is still a solid core group of returning players,” Johnson said.

The projected starters for Liberty are senior third baseman Alexis Court, senior center fielder Aris Califano, junior infielder Jenn Rucker, junior infielder Marissa Jeffers, sophomore left fielder Ana Faoro, sophomore pitcher-shortstop Denise Blohowiak, sophomore catcher Taylor Weik, sophomore pitcher-first baseman Taylor Couty, sophomore outfielder Lindsey Linden and infielder-pitcher Joshilynn Wolff.

Christopher Huber: 392-6434, ext. 242, or chuber@isspress.com. Bob Taylor: 392-6434, ext. 236, or bobtaylor@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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