Douglas High softball hasn’t been able to hit the field as much as the squad would’ve liked in the early portion of the season, but the Class 5A North defending regional champ and state runner-up has high hopes this spring.
The Tigers will be tasked with replacing four seniors from last season, but Douglas head coach John Glover is excited about a number of players who are expected to be cast into everyday roles.
AROUND THE DIAMOND
In the circle, Douglas returns two of the best pitchers in the state.
Mackenzie Willis, the returning Class 5A North Pitcher of the Year, is a senior.
Alongside Willis will be Talia Tretton, who was Class 5A North Co-Player of the Year last season.
Willis posted a 12-1 record last spring with a 1.76 earned run average while Tretton posted a 12-2 record with a 1.45 ERA.
The two hurlers combined for 332 strikeouts last season and continually kept opponents off balance with their pitch mix.
“We see them as team leaders. Being in the circle we expect the leadership,” said Glover. “Those two are obviously going to be catalysts to how the season goes. We have a lot of confidence in them.”
Behind the plate, Ava Delaney will make the move from the outfield. She replaces first team all-region player Ryleigh Blaire, who graduated.
Delaney was a second team all-region selection herself and posted a .360 batting average in 79 plate appearances.
“She’s kind of taking on that role,” said Glover. “It’s a big hole to fill. Ryleigh was a four-year starter back there. To me, as an old catcher, it’s the most important job on the field.”
Down the line at first base will be a mix-and-match approach, depending on how the lineup shakes out any given day.
Bri Williams will be one of the main faces on the right side of the infield as well as Tretton or Willis when they’re not pitching.
At second base, Zora Simpson will slide in after an honorable mention all-region performance last spring. Mercedes Covey is also expected to get some looks at second as well.
Haley Wilkinson will slide over to shortstop after being the Tigers’ second baseman last season.
Wilkinson was a first team all-region player last year after hitting .410 with nine doubles. The junior is also anticipated to be the team’s leadoff hitter this season as the lone lefty on the roster.
Replacing Emma Glover at third base will be a combination of senior Dakota Till and Simpson.
Douglas’ outfield will have some shakeups as well with only Maddie Gooch returning.
“I think this is some of the biggest question marks we have,” said Glover of the outfield.
Lilyann Lee, who was a designated player and occasional outfielder last season, returns for her junior season after hitting .394 with eight home runs.
Lee was a first team all-region selection at the utility position as a sophomore.
Tretton, who led the team with a .570 batting average and nine home runs, could find herself in a corner outfield spot from time to time.
Lee, Tretton and Simpson will both find themselves in the middle of the batting order throughout the season.
“I’m really excited about our offense. I think we have some really strong hitters,” said Glover. “I’m excited that they’re competing for jobs. Nobody has a job locked down at this point and I think that’s important.”
Annie Hill and Cam McClelland will be two newcomers in the outfield after seeing a few at-bats last season.
Both add an element of speed that Glover thinks will show more this season than a year ago.
With little time outside so far this spring, Glover added that it’s tough to tell where certain players may find themselves in the outfield this season.
“We don’t really have anything in stone. We are trying to learn the team too as coaches. We’re going to see who is going to fit where as the season goes along,” Glover said.
(Haley Wilkinson readies for a bouncing grounder during a contest last season. Wilkinson will make the move from second base to shortstop this spring for the Tigers. / Ron Harpin)
AROUND THE REGION
No one on the Tiger coaching staff will say outright they are the favorite, but the banner hanging in the gym speaks for itself.
While the Tigers will certainly be one of the top contenders for another regional crown, Douglas also will have to defeat the likes of Spanish Springs and Damonte Ranch, who both pose a threat.
Reno, Reed and Galena also are expected to contend.
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