By Ian Ferguson
The Blaine softball team had one of its biggest turnouts ever this year, with 28 players on junior varsity and varsity.
The Borderites have been practicing since March 2, taking advantage of unusually temperate weather to jumpstart the season. Between the large turnout, the good weather and a deep well of experience from returning players, head coach Alisa Burk is excited for the season.
“We have a good core group of upperclassmen who have already shown lots of leadership,” Burk said.
The team has 12 varsity players, one of whom will split time between varsity and JV this year. Of the 12 varsity players, nine have varsity experience – six as full-time varsity players last year and three who split their time between varsity and JV. One girl who played full time on JV last year made the jump to varsity this year, and two incoming freshmen also made the cut.
So far, Burk said this team appears to be more athletic overall.
“We’re going to be faster on the basepath this year than last year,” Burk said. “We have a lot of quickness and athleticism.”
Three pitchers will be holding down the mound: senior left-handers Hannah Kiele and Jolee Russell, and sophomore right-hander Lyric Berry. All three pitchers are highly experienced, having pitched in many games last year. With the new season, each pitcher will have to reestablish her ability to strike out opponents.
“It’s going to be a few games before we figure out who’s going to be the ace,” Burk said.
In practice so far, the Borderites have been working on the fundamentals and going through the familiar motions of preseason softball. Burk said she’s been keeping practices fast-paced to maximize the building of muscle memory and fitness.
“We have a lot more live hitting, and we’re keeping the girls moving rather than standing around talking very much,” she said.
Mikayla Deming, Lexi Greguski and Riley Miller are expected to be among the most productive hitters on the team this year. In addition to putting the ball in play on offense, Greguski will help lead the defense by calling pitches behind the plate.
“Lexi [Greguski] has always been so naturally good at knowing what pitches to call, I let her call the whole game,” Burk said.
While the reclassification to 2A this year will pit the Borderites against larger schools and tough competition, Burk said there’s a silver lining to the reclassification.
“It does make our competition a little more difficult, but if we can make it to the postseason, the road to state is more straightforward because we play fewer games to get there,” she said.
The Borderites will play their first game on Tuesday, March 17 at home against Lynden. The game begins at 4:30 p.m.
“We have a strong group this year, and as long as we focus on consistency on both offense and defense, I think we stand to have a successful season,” Burk said.