The South Umpqua Lancers are hoping to get their Far West League softball season started on Tuesday afternoon.
South Umpqua (8-3 overall) is the only one of the five FWL teams that hasn’t played a league contest. The Lancers are scheduled to visit Douglas (0-6, 0-2 FWL), weather permitting.
“I think we’re ready to start league,” South Umpqua coach Joelle McGrorty said. “We know the things we need to work on. One of the things (we’re working on) is coming together as a team, being consistent.”
South Umpqua, along with Sutherlin and Douglas, dropped down from Class 4A to 3A this year. The expectations remain high for the Lancers, who won 23 games and advanced to the state semifinals last year before losing 6-3 to Henley.
The Lancers have never won a state championship in softball. They believe they have the tools to contend for the title. The championship game will be played May 31 at Jane Sanders Stadium in Eugene, the home of the Oregon Ducks.
Winning the league is the first step for the Lancers.
S.U.’s nonleague losses this season came to Elmira, Junction City and Dayton. Junction City and Elmira are both ranked in the top 10 in the OSAAtoday 4A coaches’ poll, while Dayton is No. 5 in 3A.
South Umpqua was No. 2 and Cascade Christian No. 3 in the April 9 coaches’ poll. The Challengers (11-1, 3-0), who figure to be the Lancers’ toughest test in the FWL, are No. 1 and S.U. No. 8 respectively in the power rankings.
“I think we’re confident right now,” McGrorty said. “Every game matters. We still have to do the right things and make sure we don’t let our guard down.”
Brookings (8-8, 2-0) will be another team shooting for one of the league’s three automatic berths in the 3A playoffs. Sutherlin (4-10, 0-3) and Douglas each look to surprise.
S.U. returned three seniors who are four-year starters: pitcher Tayah Kelley, third baseman Kalie Mann and catcher Aailyah Rudy.
Kelley was the Far West co-MVP last year and received second-team all-state honors. Mann was a first-team all-state infielder and Rudy made first-team all-league.
The other two seniors are Aneykah McCall (first-team all-league OF) and Lana Skeen (honorable mention all-league first baseman). Also returning are juniors Shalyn Gray (first-team all-league shortstop), Skylee Gibson (second-team all-league OF), Hannah Lowell (second-team all-league OF) and Kyla Pires.
South Umpqua has outscored its opponents, 107-21.
“We play our game, no matter who we’re facing,” McGrorty said. “We’re plugging along, one game at a time.”
Cascade Christian is a younger team, led by senior first baseman Mallory Meilicke, who’s hitting .543 on the season. Sophomore Katelyn Willard is the pitcher and a strong hitter, and sophomore centerfielder Rebecca Clark is also hitting over .400.
Sutherlin, coached by Miguel Carrillo, returned three seniors in Megan Carrillo (second-team all-league utility), Kayla Luther and Rylee Parsons.
The Bulldogs suffered a big loss when sophomore outfielder Savannah McHugill, one of their top hitters, broke a wrist during a game against Glide on March 19. Junior Carmen Ganger and freshman Erica MacDonald are key players for Sutherlin.
Douglas has a new head coach in Randy Gunn.
Taylor Davis (honorable mention all-league first baseman) and Mackenzie Norton (honorable mention all-league catcher) are two of the Trojans’ top returnees. The other seniors are Maddyson Wisbey, Mackenzie Gillis and Keziah Perez.
Juniors Halei Hoyle (second-team all-league IF) and Kristyn Hogue, and sophomore Mackenna Anderson are other key players.