DHS softball is title contender
If first impressions are anything, the Douglas High School softball team is a legitimate Class 4A Northern Zone title contender.
The Tigers took the first game of a doubleheader Saturday against defending state champion Galena and nearly pulled off the sweep on the road. Douglas won the season opener, 2-0, but gave up four runs in the bottom of the sixth in game two and lost, 4-3.
Still, it was a wonderful way to open the season. The Tigers beat one of the top pitchers in the state and then nearly pulled off the sweep with its No. 3 pitcher on the mound in the second game.
“If you had asked me before Saturday if I would’ve taken a split, I would have definitely said yes,” Douglas coach Mike Rippee said. “But, when we got to a point where I saw we could’ve gotten the sweep, I got greedy.”
Just how good can this Douglas team be? Well, by season’s end, it just may be able to match up to those great Tiger softball teams of the early 1990s.
“We’ve got a lot of experience,” Rippee said. “With the lineup we went with on Saturday, there was really only one girl who had not seen some sort of varsity experience. We’ve got some two-, some three- and some four-year players. We definitely have some ability.”
Douglas appears to be solid in the circle, around the diamond and out on the grass.
Senior Kim Gonzales, who was named to the all-Northern Zone team last year as a utility player, and junior Lori Shephard makeup one of the top pitching duos in the league. Gonzales, who also spends time in right field, picked up the win in the first game Saturday.
Shephard wasn’t able to go in the second game because of the lasting effects of an knuckle injury she suffered in a scrimmage game Thursday against Carson. Instead, junior Cathy Mauzey was the starter and she turned in a terrific effort.
“We have three solid pitchers who can all step in against any team,” Rippee said. “(Assistant coach) Junior Kizer is one of the best pitching coaches around.”
If you ask Rippee, the Tigers have the best defensive infield in the league player for player.
“Our infield is solid, as good any any infield in the league,” Rippee said.
Brook Kizer, a junior, and and Stacy Riddell, a senior, will share time behind the plate. Having two outstanding catchers is important, according to Rippee, now that the league schedule will feature several doubleheaders.
“You need two and you need to always have one ready to go,” said Rippee, who likes to use a different catcher for each game of a doubleheader in order to give each one a break. “There are a whole bunch of lineup things you need to be aware of. Our catching is very, very solid and it will only get better.”
Junior Rebecca Rippee, who was named to the all-Division II first team as a third baseman last year, has tentatively moved over to first. Coach Rippee feels this is a more natural position for his daughter.
“She can play first in her sleep,” Rippee said. “She makes some unbelievable stops. It’s hard for a father to say, but she is the best in the league. She’s athletic, she gets to balls and she makes a lot of things happen.”
Junior second baseman Tomasa Kizer, a second-team all-division selection last year, and senior shortstop Rebecca Goodspeed make up perhaps the top defensive infield duos in the league. They are capable of turning two right along with the other best tandems in the state, and rarely will a ball get through up the middle.
“Tomasa is as good as any second baseman in the league. Goodspeed, field wise, is the best shortstop in the league bar none,” Rippee said.
Michelle Roza, a sophomore, has moved into Rippee’s old position at third. Rippee thinks Roza, despite her youth and relative inexperience, will be able to hold her own on the hot corner.
“Michelle plays well at third and makes big plays,” Rippee said. “I was up early Saturday trying to decide what to do. I had a hunch and I went with it.”
“I felt that would be our strongest lineup,” Rippee said. “Everything can change. Just because (they) own it now doesn’t mean (they) always will.”
Douglas also has a new look in the outfield. Rosie Contri, a junior, will take her athleticism out to center field.
“The best thing she brings is her competitive attitude and desire to get better,” Rippee said.
Jenny Smokey, a junior, will start in left field. Smokey was a key factor in Douglas’ outfield, perhaps the best in the league, last year.
“She is quick to get to a lot of balls, she can swing a hot bat and she runs well,” Rippee said. “She is one of the top left fielders in the league.”
Mauzey and Gonzales will share time in right field.
“Kim is an amazing person. She is such a competitor and a great team leader,” Rippee said. “She is exactly what you want out of a senior. She gets the job done. She’s a bulldog and so smart.
“Cathy has improved by leaps and bounds.”
Even with its talented defense, Douglas will be able to win games with its offense. The lineup features a couple of players who can hit for power, many who can hit for the percentages and some who can run the bases well. The team should do very well in hit-and-run situations.
Rippee is the power hitter in the lineup, but Roza and Smokey have shown they can go long, too.
“We’ve got some people who can hit the ball,” Rippee said. “Good pitching always better than good hitting and we will see some good pitching.
“But, we’ve got people who can put the ball in play. If you do that, good things will happen. In this league, if you get two or three runs in you’re usually in pretty good shape.”
What’s new in the Douglas program this year? For starters, there are new uniforms and a new assistant coach.
Julie Baker, a former player who holds the school’s career stolen base record, is back to help at her alma mater.
“She has encouraged me to be more aggressive on the bases,” Rippee said. “We did run a little bit (Saturday) and we put ourselves in some good situations.”
There doesn’t appear to be a key stretch on the schedule, but Rippee sees the potential for his team to get off to a good start.
Douglas, who played host to South Tahoe on Tuesday, will play a doubleheader at Lowry on Thursday and play host to Reed on Friday. This year, like in baseball, all 13 teams in the Northern Zone are lumped into the same division with the top eight earning a berth into the playoffs.
“The key is we have 24 conference games that we need to take one at a time,” Rippee said. “We want to start off on the right foot. The first two weeks are key.”
With Galena already out of the way, the Tigers can look forward to future doubleheaders with McQueen, Reno, Sparks, Carson and Wooster. Because the two-division format has been abolished, there is a bigger importance on depth to deal with the many scheduled doubleheaders.
“I like this format a lot better,” Rippee said. “The top eight teams go to zone. Last year, we could’ve had five from our division and we had seven teams in our division. You want the best teams to go.”
“We’ve got some girls who can play and good players make good coaches,” Rippee said. “We need to stay focused. We can be successful. But, we can’t get complacent.
“Saturday, everybody contributed. By contributing I mean more than just hitting and throwing.”
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