Pam Pack puzzlePublished 6:52pm Tuesday, March 12, 2013
The goals are very defined: win the conference, win in the playoffs, then pack your bags for Walnut Creek.
However, the blueprint for achieving those goals is still in the works.
The Washington softball team starts the season in good shape as it returns seven out of its nine starters from last year’s team that went 19-5 (10-4) and finished tied for third in the Coastal Conference.
The Pam Pack brings back ace Rebekah Langston, senior slugger Justyce McKissick and budding sophomore sensations Adriana Tyson and Haley Hutchins. However, despite having a talented roster filled with versatile players, finding replacements for centerfielder Morgan Bryant and catcher Sydney Gurkin isn’t exactly as easy as it sounds.
Making up for the stats of the do-it-all Bryant and the strong-armed Gurkin is tough, but can be done. Replacing their leadership is another story and until that happens the Pam Pack’s road to Walnut Creek could be a bumpy one.
“Our goal every year is that we want to win the conference, make the playoffs and then go to Walnut Creek,” said Doug Whitehead, the 2012 WDN Coach of the Year. “There’s no doubt about it, I think we have the combination of players that can do it. … They’re a good group of girls, but I’m looking for a leader. Someone who steps up and motivates this team and is the one that the girls look to.”
The loss of the speedy Bryant, last year’s WDN Player of the Year, has Whitehead searching for centerfield candidates. The list is a quality one that includes McKissick, last year’s first baseman, Camri Dawson, Anna Hardison and Faith Benston.
“I’m not going to pencil anybody in right now,” Whitehead said. “So far we’ve been doing it by committee trying to find someone who looks comfortable out there. I’m not necessarily leaning toward any one player right now.”
If McKissick, who played centerfield early in her varsity career, does slide to the outfield Whitehead will look to versatile sophomore Catie Dority to take her place at first.
“Catie Dority has been filling in at first when we need her,” Whitehead said. “She can play first, third and outfield but I think first base is a good comfortable position for her. She’s been working hard on it”
Junior Kaylee Jackson, last year’s second baseman, has been working hard on trying to replace Gurkin and become the next in a long line of outstanding Pam Pack backstops.
“I don’t know if that’s her most comfortable position because she won’t tell me. She just goes out there and does what we ask her to do. She won our coaches’ award last season,” Whitehead said. “I think she likes the outfield but she realizes that we have to have a catcher.”
Jackson’s move to catcher opens up a hole at second base that will likely be covered by a combination of freshman Allison Brantley, who was praised by Whitehead for her versatility, along with Hutchins, who is also strong candidate to play in the outfield.
While there may be some uncertainty on the field, one thing Whitehead can routinely count on is penciling in a lineup that is capable of putting runs on the board against any team it faces.
“We return our leading hitter from last year in Justyce McKissick and Haley Hutchins was one of our top-three hitters from last year,” Whitehead said. “We also have Haley Wright and Adriana Tyson who are both very strong hitters, and Kaylee Jackson is the same way. We have a bunch of girls who are all capable of extra base hits every at bat.”