There is a new energy across the board for The Dalles softball team.
Katherine Kramer is back as head coach and she has a fired up group that is looking to get back on track, following two seasons where the varsity team posted an 11-39-1 record under two different coaches.
If early results are any indication, TD’s 30-1 mercy-ruled victory over Milwaukie gave senior Hannah Wallis some reasons for optimism.
“I’m so excited for this year’s softball season,” Wallis said. “We played our first game Wednesday and I can already tell we are a completely different team. Our chemistry was amazing, and we were energized to play.
“We had so much fun and our win against Milwaukie boosts our confidence for the rest of the season. We plan to keep working hard and practice as much as we can. I’m so excited for this year’s softball season and I can’t stress that enough.”
Last year, the Riverhawks nearly tripled their win total, going from three to eight, and shaved five losses down to 17 after a program-high 22 in 2017, and they scored 21 more runs (140-119), allowed nine fewer runs (230-221) and finished the regular season ranked No. 17 in the 5A classification.
Even with only one league victory, The Dalles also increased its all-Columbia River Conference recipients, from six to seven, as Kathryn Bradford earned a first-team award, and teammates Bailey LeBreton, Kilee Hoylman, Emma Weir, Jodi Thomasian, Lauryn Belanger and Maddie Troutt were second-team picks.
Except for graduated seniors Bradford, Weir and Thomasian, TD has Ella Salvatori, Grace Schatz, Caitlyn Gentry, Sydnee Byers, Emma Smith, Courtney Hert and Charlie May on the varsity side joining the all-league quartet of LeBreton, Hoylman, Belanger and Troutt.
“The group is good. They are all athletes and they are all very coachable and they get along very well,” Kramer said. “We have a big junior class and there is a lot of leadership within that group. That’s what gets people excited, that’s why they come to practice and that’s why they always want to get better every day.”
In her freshman campaign, Troutt had a .474 batting average, a .458 on-base percentage, and she posted the second-highest slugging percentage at .702 with two home runs (tied for second-best on the team.)
LeBreton led the Riverhawks with five long balls, including a walk-off, two-run homer, to defeat Hood River Valley, 2-1, on May 11 in the team’s finale.
In league, LeBreton notched a .429 batting average and a .480 on-base percentage and added a .905 slugging percentage, as she finished just short of making it to the first team.
Aside from CRC games, the junior posted a .426 average, was on base 39 percent of the time and led the Riverhawks in slugging percentage at .778.
Belanger wrapped up her first full season with a .322 batting average, a .333 on-base number and a .492 slugging percentage, with two home runs.
She racked up 184 putouts, had five assists and made two errors for a .995 fielding percentage in her 26-game slate, and she played error-free ball in CRC play with two assists and 78 putouts.
At pitcher, LeBreton wound up with a 3.26 earned run average and a team-leading six winning decisions.
Joining LeBreton on the second team for the second consecutive year was Hoylman, who played everywhere on the field.
Defensively, Hoylman had 41 assists and 23 putouts, with three errors, for a .955 fielding percentage. She did not make an error in 12 league tilts.
Hoylman finished the season with a .350 batting average, a .378 on-base percentage and a .425 slugging percentage.
When she heard the news of Kramer taking the head coach role, Hoylman said that she was excited because Kramer pushes them to do their best.
That energy is rubbing off on the players.
“This year, our mentality is very positive, and we are very driven to do well this year to show off what we can do,” Hoylman said. “I think, all around, we are good on defense and offense. If we all work together as a team and play for each other, I think we will be very successful.”
With the weather creating a hindrance in terms of continuity on the practice field, the Lady Hawks have been cooped up at Wahtonka for the past few weeks, which has forced Kramer to find various ways to keep her team sharp.
Kramer doesn’t call it a hindrance, however.
It could be a blessing in disguise, however.
“It’s been a little challenging, but it gets us creative when we run our practices and how we use that time,” Kramer said. “It helps us with adversity. If we can get through this season and really just work on the things that we can, then the season will be great. We just got to get on the field.”
In Wednesday’s lopsided season-opening win, LeBreton, Troutt and Wallis were swinging the hot bats, while Hoylman (shortstop), Hert (third base) and May (centerfield) made stellar defensive plays.
LeBreton and Mikayla Kelly kept Milwaukie in check from the circle and Troutt caught the entire game and didn’t let anything by her.
It is just one game, and May feels that while it was a great start, this team is far from a finished product.
“To take another step forward, we will need to work on minor defensive changes, communication, and make a few tweaks with our hitting. We also need to execute offensive plays,” May said. “This team is good at working together. We have great team fundamentals and that alone will carry us far.”
The Dalles (1-0 record) played Friday at Gresham, but had Tuesday’s contest in Bend canceled.
At 5 p.m. on Friday, Mar. 22, the Hawks travel to Portland for a road clash with Parkrose.