Douglas High softball coach Andy Mitchell chuckles a bit when asked how he’d characterize his 2013 squad.
Very simply, the potential and talent the Tigers possess on this year’s 13-player roster does not seem to have a limit.
“There are a lot of things to be excited about,” Mitchell said. “We are strong in every area of the game. We have strong pitching, we should be very strong offensively and we have a lot of high-quality players who can fill a variety of roles on defense.”
The Lady Tigers will need every bit of it in a highly-competitive Sierra League. Damonte Ranch enters the season as the prohibitive favorite, returning 10 key contributors from its regional championship team last year.
“It’s a tough league,” Mitchell said. “There won’t be any easy wins. Manogue didn’t lose many people, Galena has a very strong pitcher, Carson is always very good and Wooster has been getting tougher every year. We like it though. Every week will be interesting.”
Douglas returns seven starters from last season’s squad and welcomes in a promising class of newcomers.
“They have very good chemistry,” Mitchell said. “We have a lot of talented kids, they all get along and they all push each other to be better. It’s a group that I can see getting stronger and stronger as the year goes on.”
For all of the Tigers’ returning experience, it’s a pair of underclassmen pitchers that could end up defining the season this year.
Sophomore Kali Sargent and freshman Kaitlyn Bowman already turned in a pair of strong outings each at the Victory Tournament in Sacramento over the weekend.
“They’re going to be our primary top two pitchers and they are both very capable,” Mitchell said. “Kaitlyn is a lefty, so that’ll allow us to give teams a different look.
“They are both true pitchers too. They hit their spots, Kali throws a very strong rise ball and Kaitlyn throws pretty hard. They are both very tough competitors and we’re excited to see what they can do.”
Mitchell said the team also has good depth from the circle as sophomores Leonna Mortimer and Maddy Parks can also chew up some innings.
Junior Kelly Sonnemann is one of Douglas’ two returning all-league players, having hit seven doubles, three triples and driven in 16 runs last season.
“She’s just a great athlete and she’s been hitting the ball really well to start this season,” Mitchell said. “She’ll be our primary player behind the plate.”
Freshman Allison Meyer will also see time at catcher, as well as a variety of other roles.
Douglas will cycle through a number of players at first base, including Parks, Bowman, Sargent and junior Katie Chieffo.
At second base, returning first-team all-leaguer Aaliyah Paxson is the likely starter, but she has been battling a hip injury that could keep her out for a period of time. Myer will get the starts at second in the meantime.
Katie Kluever, who started at second last year, is the starter at shortstop and has the ability to play several positions as well.
Senior Illiana Brown is the team’s top returning power hitter and will be the starter at third base.
Julia Gomez is another of a broad range of utility players for the Tigers that could see time at multiple spots across the diamond.
“We have a lot of flexibility and options both in the infield and the outfield,” Mitchell said. “There are a lot of good bats we want to get out there, and these girls give us a lot of choices in where to put them in the lineup. It’s a nice luxury.”
Taylor McKinnon will shift from left to center field, freshman Makayla Shaver had taken the early starts in left and Mortimer is the likely starter in right.
“There are some new faces out there, but again, we just have a lot of options,” Mitchell said. “Allison Meyer is one that could be all over the place. She’s a good hitter and very fast as a baserunner. Julia Gomez will get some reps in the outfield. Leonna is a great hitter and it’ll be nice to have her in right. We’re just mixing and matching a bit and trying to find the best combinations. It should be a fun year.”