There was plenty of optimism hustling around the field at Stewart Park Tuesday afternoon as the Roseburg High softball team continued to get ready for its 2013 season opener.
The Indians, under 11th-year head coach Tony Campos, return five starters from last year’s team that finished 16-9 overall and came within an out of shocking eventual Class 6A state champion North Medford in the second round of the playoffs.
Roseburg is scheduled to open on the road at Thurston of Springfield Thursday, weather permitting. Friday, the Tribe plays at South Salem, which lost to the Black Tornado in the state final.
The Indians, who participated in a jamboree in Grants Pass Monday, are anxious to see themselves in games that count.
“I’m very confident in this year … we’ve all grown up together, work really well together, know each other’s weaknesses and where we need to cover,” said senior pitcher Makinna Akers, in her fourth year as Roseburg’s ace in the circle. “I feel like this is going to be our year. This is going to be a good year for us.”
Allyssa Hunt, a senior first baseman/pitcher, also likes the makeup of the Indians.
“I think our expectations for this year are going to be just as good or better than last year,” she said. “We have a solid all-around team. If we play to our potential, it will be our year to go the farthest.”
The recent dry weather has allowed the Indians to get some valuable practice time outside, something that hasn’t happened for a couple of years.
“Practicing outside, it looks like we’re in midseason practice,” Hunt said. “It feels so good to just get comfortable with the field and your players. You get to work in your position. Being inside (in the gym) you lose valuable time, so it’s so much better to be outside.”
“We’re pretty excited about the weather we’ve had and are moving along pretty well,” said Campos. “We’ve got some good kids coming back. We have a good mix of young kids coming in that are going to have to step up and help out. We’re looking forward to getting out on the dirt and competing.”
Akers (14-8 record last year), Hunt (designated hitter), senior shortstop Megan Larkin, senior second baseman Sydney Reynolds and sophomore catcher Jacey Conklin are the returning starters. Akers was a first-team all-conference selection, while Larkin, Reynolds, Conklin and Hunt were second-team picks.
Akers signed with NCAA Division I Boston University and Larkin signed with Division II St. Cloud (Minn.) State.
The Indians lost four seniors to graduation, three who received all-league recognition.
“Our biggest concern is going to be scoring runs,” Campos said. “We have some power, but don’t have as much speed. Hopefully we’ll get some balls in the gap and maybe hit a couple of long balls.”
Pitching and defense — which has always been strengths during the Campos era — should keep the Indians in most games.
Roseburg is solid up the middle with Larkin and Reynolds. Hunt will be at first base, while freshman Baylee Wyscaver and sophomore Jayde McDowell could both see time at third base. Conklin had a good freshman season behind the plate, but sophomore Kyndle Delcollo will miss this season with an ACL injury.
The other pitching options behind Akers are Hunt and sophomore Mason Seely.
“I think the infield is going to be excellent,” Hunt said. “Hitting-wise, I think we’ll prove ourselves and more.”
In the outfield, juniors Jessa Perkinson and Chelsey Luiz, McDowell and Seely are competing for starting spots.
The Indians begin Southern Oregon Hybrid play Tuesday at South Medford. North Medford is heavily favored to win the conference again.
“North Medford has a lot of players back,” Campos said. “(Pitcher Maryssa) Becker is very, very tough. Hopefully we can shorten up and get the ball in play and put some pressure on their defense. Crater lost a lot of seniors, and South Medford and Grants Pass will be very young as well.”
• You can reach Sports Editor Tom Eggers at 541-957-4220 or by email at email@example.com
Head coach: Tony Campos (11th year).
Assistants: George Decker, John Reynolds, Brian Bates, Jayde Curry, Ron Sanders.
Last year: 16-9, 7-5 in Southern Oregon Hybrid (second); lost to North Medford in second round of 6A playoffs.
Returning starters: Makinna Akers, sr., P; Megan Larkin, sr., SS; Sydney Reynolds, sr., 2B; Allyssa Hunt, sr., DH; Jacey Conklin, soph., C.
Others to watch: Ashley King, sr., OF/1B; Emma Thompson, sr., 1B; Jessa Perkinson, jr., OF; Chelsey Luiz, jr., OF; Hannah Roberts, jr., OF; Ashley Miller, jr., P/3B; Mason Seely, soph., OF/P; Alysha Epley, soph., IF/C; Jayde McDowell, soph., 3B/OF; Bailey Sanders, soph., P/OF; Arielle Broomane, soph., C/OF; Baylee Wyscaver, fr., 3B; Ashley Martin, fr., P.