Softball: Tigers have plenty to build on
From the outset, it had rebuilding year written all over it.
The Douglas softball team entered the 2006 season having lost the bulk of its starting lineup to graduation. Of the graduating seniors, three went on to star at the college level this season.
Left in their spot was a core of solid returners, but no clear-cut leaders, a brand-new coaching staff and a host of talented newcomers.
The Tigers, through much hard work and more than their fair share of growing pains, were able to remove the “work in progress” label and replace it with “regional qualifier” by the end of the year.
The leadership question wasn’t left without an answer for long.
Senior Mitzi Olsen took on the bulk of the Tigers’ pitching early on and quickly established herself as one of the top arms in the league. Three-year vet Tisha Luken, senior two-year starter Felicia Imelli and sophomore slugger Lauren Hoppe stepped in assume the helm out in the field.
First-year coaches Lori Raschilla and Kari Begovich-Wigton built a roster based primarily on speed and the ability to execute fundamentals.
Newcomers Donna Judd and Stephanie Harper, both freshmen, and Kayla Moore made an instant impact for the Tigers with Judd regularly filling in at the leadoff spot and Harper and Moore making up a formidable battery.
Morgan Barone and Judd were virtually interchangeable at second base and Nicole LaPorte, Angella Stephenson and Keri Villalobos all took turns filling in various roles, mostly in the outfield.
The Tigers got a steady start out of the gates, going 2-2 at the season-opening Tokay Invitational in California and then picking up an impressive 1-0 victory over archrival Carson to open league play.
Slight stumbles against Damonte Ranch and North Valleys were easily forgotten after Douglas put together a six-game win streak through the middle of the season that included two no-hitters from Harper.
A tough series against Reno put the Tigers in a must-win situation against Wooster and Douglas was able to answer the call.
Olsen pitched the Tigers to a 5-4 victory in the series-opener against the Colts, striking out eight as Judd, Stephenson, Imelli and Hoppe each drove in runs.
Wooster came back the next game to defeat Douglas and put them on the brink of elimination, but the Tigers came back the same afternoon to pick up a 10-4 win and a playoff spot.
The Tigers were elimated from the playoffs with losses to eventual state champion McQueen and High Desert power Reed, but gained valuable experience in the process.
— Joey Crandall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (775) 782-5121, ext. 212.