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Softball season gears up

by Chuck Smock

The bad news for the Douglas softball team this season is that the Tigers will have to find a replacement for Michelle Roza, a two-year starter at third base.

The good news is that’s pretty much all the bad news.

Roza was the only senior on last year’s team that finished third at the Zone tournament and advanced to the State tournament.

Ten of 13 Douglas players return with at least one full year of varsity experience. Two others were called up from the junior varsity squad last year for the playoffs.

“All in all, we have a lot of talent coming back,” Tigers coach Ken Carr said. “The girls have been working exceptionally hard. The team has really come together quickly, and this is just after a few practices.”

Senior first baseman Hillary Moreira is a player who will provide leadership on and off the field for an experienced – if young – Douglas squad.

Moreira hit .508 with five home runs last season and finished the year with a .980 fielding percentage. She was named the Northern 4A All-Conference second team for the second year in a row. As a sophomore, Moreira earned postseason honors at designated hitter.

Sophomore pitcher Tarrah Kizer will be another key player for the Tigers this season. As a freshman, Kizer carried most of the pitching load at Douglas. She was selected to the all-conference second team as a designated hitter.

Junior middle infielders Allie Walling and Lindsey Rollins are also returning starters.

Walling, despite being a first-year player in the Douglas program last season, received honorable mention recognition from Northern 4A coaches for her play at second base.

Rollins is entering her third varsity season at Douglas and her second as the Tigers’ starting shortstop.

Sophomores Cheryl Nicoll and Devon Bateman are the leading candidates to replace Roza at third base.

Nicoll started in center field last year as a freshman, but has plenty of playing experience in the infield.

“Cheryl always has been an infielder, but she adapted to center field last year like she had been born there,” Carr said.

Bateman was called up from the junior varsity for the playoffs last season. Carr said Bateman has the ability to play any of the infield positions for the Tigers this season.

Ashley Coleman and Tasha McCann are the Tigers’ top two prospects at catcher. Coleman battled injuries most of last season. McCann was the other JV player called up late last season. She played one game in the Zone tournament, where she threw out the only runner who tried to steal a base on her, and one game at state.

Senior Jodi Gonzales and freshman Kristy Olsen give the Tigers two quality pitching options behind Kizer.

Gonzales’ finesse and control provided a nice complement to Kizer’s power pitching. Gonzales, who was an honorable mention all-conference selection last season, turned in a great outing at the Zone tournament in the Tigers’ win over Reed in the game that clinched third place.

Carr said Olson is a talented young pitcher with excellent control. He added that Olson’s veteran teammates quickly welcomed her into the varsity program.

“Kristy is a solid ball player and she was accepted right away by the kids,” the coach said. “The other kids have taken her under their wing already.”

The Tigers are also loaded with experienced outfielders. Seniors Jeannette Holt and Jennifer McCrosky and junior Baudelia Ceballos each started several games last season. Holt has excellent range in center field, while McCrosky and Ceballos have strong arms that will keep opposing runners from trying to take an extra base.

Olsen can also play outfield on days when she’s not pitching.

With talent and depth at every position, Carr said playing time will be earned at the plate.

“The starters will be whoever is hitting the best,” he said. “As far as defensive skills, we have 13 really good ball players.

“They all know how competitive the league will be this year. We know we’re going to have to fight and scrap for every run and every out.”