MEMBERS OF the 14U Cherry City Crush softball team pose for a preseason photo in March. The players are (front Row, from left to right), Sarah Helyer, Haley Jones, Kathryn Bradford, Jodi Thomasian and Hannah Wallis. In the back row are (from the left), Luisa Meyer, Zaida Lopez, Emma Weir, Glenda Stewart, Jessika Nanez, Jez Farrell and Chasidy Brumfield. The Crush has amassed an overall record of 8-11 on the year, but they have caught fire late in play as the state tournament looms in late June.
One local team that has been laying in the weeds waiting for the competition is the 14U Cherry City Crush softball team.
This group of veterans and newcomers started the spring campaign with a 1-7 record in their first two tournaments, but have gone 7-4 in the last 11 contests and appear to have righted the ship in time for a memorable run before the state tournament at the end of the month.
Early in April, the Crush went 1-3 at the Hood River Tournament and struggled to find their bearings the next week with a 0-4 record at The Dalles Tournament held at 16th Street Ballpark and Sorosis Park.
“The season started a little rough, but the girls have turned it around,” said Cherry City Crush manager Todd Bradford.
As the weather turned from crisp and chilly to warm, the team has hit its stride, and it all started with a six-game slate in the always tough Milwaukie Tournament.
The group wound up with a respectable 3-3 record and managed three gritty wins to turn the tide.
At the Newberg Tournament, the Crush secured a dominant 4-1 standing to grab second-place honors.
In that event, starting catcher and The Dalles varsity softball player, Jez Farrell, hammered a game-changing home run that traveled more than 260-feet over the left field fence.
While the offense took hold and started percolating, from the circle, Jodi Thomasian showed her ace stuff in the following game in Newberg with a five-inning no-hitter.
“The girls continue to work hard, progress and enjoy the game every week,” Bradford added. “That is what we ask and demand of these girls. I tell the girls every week, it’s up to them how far they want to go.”
The long-term aim of the coaching staff of Bradford, and assistants Andy Clark and Lynn Helyer is to have fun, work together and bring a positive attitude to the field every day.
With many of the girls sharing aspirations for high school softball, Coach Bradford said his primary focus is on preparing the girls with the proper fundamentals of the game that will translate to success at the high school level and beyond.
This group is particularly strong up the middle with stout play at catcher, shortstop, second base and center field.
With Thomasian and Kathryn Bradford, the Crush skipper has two power arms to throw at the opposition.
Farrell and teammate Emma Weir provide stout defense and a calming effect for the staff at catcher, Thomasian and Weir also display versatility with top play at shortstop.
The quick and dependable outfield is covered by Zaida Lopez, Hannah Wallis, Chasidy Brumfield, Glenda Stewart and Kathryn Bradford.
Rounding out the roster for coach Bradford are Haley Jones at first base, Sarah Helyer at second and the combination of Jessika Nanez and Luisa Meyer at third base.
This team has a good blend of softball experience with six years under their belts and the other half of the roster is comprised of fresh-faced athletes who have shown ability to produce well under pressure situations.
There are going to be ups and downs to every season, whether it being mercy-ruled wins, high-scoring games, valiant comebacks, adversity, early deficits and losing streaks, so it comes down to handling those issues as they come.
“This is a great group of young ladies,” the coach said. “They have a lot of potential in softball and anything else in life they choose. The coaching staff and I have really enjoyed this group.”
The Crush squad has tough tournament matchups slated for Hillsboro and Salem over the next few weeks, before capping the 2014 campaign with action in Medford for the ASA state tournament later in the month.
“These next two tourneys are going to be very challenging,” said the Crush coach on those contests at Hillsboro and Salem. “Some good teams will be at both. This should prepare them for state.”