Tigers feature veterans and a new look
Led by a nucleus of eight returning veterans from a team that went 23-13 and finished fourth at the region tournament last year, there is good reason for the Douglas High softball team to be optimistic right now.
Nevertheless, coach Rob Parks is quick to note this is a different team that has some work to do in order to prepare for a highly challenging Northern Division I conference season.
“It was evident in our first scrimmages this year that we are a different team compared to the last few years,” Parks pointed out. “Our hitting and defense should remain strong, however, it’s hard to replace an ace pitcher and hitter like Kali Sargent.”
Douglas opens its season Thursday at the Bishop Gorman Kickoff the Season Tournament in Las Vegas. The Tigers face two strong opponents right off the bat — Rancho (Las Vegas) at 9:50 a.m. and Aliso Niguel (Aliso Viejo, Calif.) at 11:40 a.m. at Doc Romero Fields in Las Vegas.
Sargent graduated after three varsity seasons as an all-conference pitcher for the Tigers and is now playing for Sacramento City College. All-conference outfielder Leonna Mortimer has also moved on to play at Lassen College in Susanville, Calif.
Leading the way for Douglas is a list of returnees that includes pitcher Kaitlyn Bowman, center fielder Mackenzie Brixey, third baseman Corryne Diaz, middle infielder Allison Meyer, middle infielder Casey Peck, catcher Chloie Pratt, outfielder Shaena Robinson and utility player Kylie Swan.
Meyer, a senior who has already signed to play softball at George Fox University (Newberg, Ore.), has been a first-team all-region softball infielder the last two seasons. She has hit .399 over the last three seasons for the Tigers.
“I expect Allison to end the year on top of the league’s hitting stats,” Parks said. “She will shore up the middle infield position at either shortstop or second base while Casey Peck takes the other position in the middle. Casey played second base last year and provided some timely hitting.”
Leading the pitching staff is Bowman, a senior left-hander who is currently working through an injury. She was selected to the all-region second-team last season with an 8-6 season record, 3.43 earned run average, 47 strikeouts and 22 walks in 71.1 innings.
“I am confident our pitchers will keep us competitive in most games,” Parks said. “Amanda Hoffman and Madison Peters will start off the year as the pitchers we will be using. They both have pitched well, not only in our program, but on their respective travel teams.”
Big contributions are also expected this season from Robinson and Diaz. Robinson received honorable mention all-conference recognition last season.
“Both are excellent at their positions and hit for power,” Parks said, adding that the two players contributed home runs during the team’s preseason scrimmages.
Swan, who is expected to split time between first base and the outfield, was one of the team leaders in RBIs last year.
“I know that she will come through again with runners on base this year,” Parks said of the junior.
Brixey, who started as a freshman last year, is another player the Tigers will be counting on to get on base while hitting at the top of the order.
“She led off many times for us last year and had a high on-base percentage,” Parks said. “Her speed puts the pressure on the defense.
Pratt, who played as a freshman last year, will handle the catching chores along with varsity newcomer Mackenzie Peters, a sophomore. Peters showed a big bat with a home run during the scrimmages.
Parks noted that Brooklyn Davis will see playing time as a utility infielder, while Chandler Howe and Madison Rogers will split time at first base and outfield.
The goal is to compete in a strong conference that includes defending region and state champion Reed (37-2 last year) and Spanish Springs (first-place during the regular season). Furthermore, the Tigers are facing a difficult conference season schedule in which they will play doubleheaders at Galena (third at last year’s region tournament), Reed and Reno (third during the conference regular season last year).
The Tigers are looking to prepare themselves by playing a strong preseason schedule that starts Thursday against the Rancho Rams, who return nine starters from a team that went 27-11 and advanced to the NIAA Division I state tournament last year.
Douglas play again Thursday morning against a Aliso Niguel team from Orange County that was 15-12-1 last year and features a veteran roster that includes pitcher/third baseman Ashley Ruiz, who has signed to play at Kentucky.
“We are happy to be doing this preseason tourney in Las Vegas to see some different competition, including Las Vegas teams,” said Parks, whose squad had opened the last two seasons at a Sacramento preseason tournament.