Reed makes most of the headlines when it comes to softball in the DI North. Spanish Springs is out to change that.
The Cougs have actually won the last two DI North regular season titles but have played second fiddle because they haven’t been able to get over the hump come postseason play.
Two years ago, Spanish Springs advanced to the regional title game through the loser’s bracket and forced the “if necessary” game against Reed before falling, 8-4. Last year, Spanish Springs was sent to loser’s bracket in just its second game of the tournament, where it dropped its next contest, 6-4, to Galena.
In a region that figures to be highly competitive with a lot of teams bringing back a lot of starters, taking the next step is much easier said in early March than it will be to execute in May, but coach Jeff Davidson said his team can learn from last year’s quick exit.
- 2015 record: 27-8, 20-2 DI North No. 1
- Playoffs: 6-4 L to Galena in loser’s bracket quarterfinals
- Key returners: Hayley Fein, Kourtney Townsend, Bailey Ivory, Kennedey Stroshine, Aubrey Parks, Katelyn Townsend
- Key losses: Autumn Alexander, Ally Batastini, Vanessa Almario, Ashley Boylan, Kylie Bishop
“We talked about it early on as a team because it was a disappointing end,” Davidson said. “And we have to learn from our mistakes and we weren’t ready to play and we got beat. You have to be prepared to play and you have to be willing to lay it all on the play every single pitch. That’s something we’re working on this year.”
Leading the charge this spring will undoubtedly be senior Hayley Fein. She is coming off a standout junior season that saw her earn DI North Pitcher of the Year honors after amassing a 19-3 record with a 1.71 ERA. She also struck out 158 batters compared with just 31 walks.
“She’s a senior this year. She’s dedicated. She’s worked hard,” Davidson said. “She’s doing really well with the pitching regiments we’ve set for her.”
At the dish, Fein hit .363 in the middle of the Cougs’ lineup and tied for the team lead with eight doubles while driving in 20. Sophomore Amidori Anderson and senior Bailey Ivory, who was a first-team all-league designated player last spring, will be used to relieve Fein in the circle on occasion.
Fein makes up half of Spanish Springs’ returning starting battery as senior catcher Kourtney Townsend will also be back. She gathered DI North honorable mention last spring.
The Cougars also bring back Townsend’s sophomore sister, Katelyn, who was voted to the DI North first team as an outfielder after hitting .465 as a freshman and junior third baseman Kennedey Stroshine, a second-team all-league selection last spring.
Gone for the Cougars are five seniors, four of which started: First team first baseman/pitcher Ally Batastini who is now at UNLV, first team centerfielder Autumn Alexander, second team outfielder Vanessa Almario and honorable mention outfielder Ashley Boylan.
“You have to take and really formulate a new team,” Davidson said of the losses. “You’re going to have a lot of different players that are fighting for starting positions.”
Davidson started getting an idea who would take over the new spots when the team scrimmaged Dayton, Carson and North Valleys on Saturday. The team won all three scrimmages as Fein allowed just one unearned run on the day on three hits. Behind her, the defense committed just one error.
The Cougars were scheduled to officially start their season in Sacramento on Thursday in the 20-team Victory Preseason Tournament of Champions but it was postponed to April 14-16 due to weather.
Spanish Springs will open its season next Thursday with a DI North contest at home against Hug.
“It’s going to be a dogfight this year (in the DI North),” Davidson said. “I’m telling you. You have to play the perfect game.”