There has a been a positive vibe in the Puyallup High community ever since the softball team captured the 2014 Class 4A state championship, the program’s second title and first since 1978.
Last season played out much like the run that claimed the state title three years ago, where the Vikings bludgeoned opponents with their bats, scoring 283 runs on the season (10.1 average per game) while holding opponents to 58 runs (2.01 average) over the season and playoffs combined.
“The ultimate goal for the whole season is to win state,” Natalie Joyner said.
Puyallup went undefeated in the regular season, eventually capturing the 4A SPSL championship, and played its way into the final four before losing its final two games, falling to Snohomish (1-0) in the semifinals and Richland (6-2) in the consolation round.
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Puyallup tied for fifth place in state last year.
Even though the Vikings graduated their entire outfield from last season, there is still a strong core group of players headlined by Joyner, Kennedy Robillard, Maddie Besaw and Sophia Bjerk.
And in their sights is not just another league title, but redemption from what happened in the semis last spring.
“We’re just trying to take it one day at a time,” Robillard said. “We know the goals, but we are trying to take it one day, one game at a time and just build off of it.”
Perhaps that was the key to the Vikings’ success last year when they had 15 games where they outscored opponents by 10 runs or more, often inciting the mercy rule. That mindset will be needed this year, especially with how the league can shape out with South Kitsap, Olympia and Bellarmine Prep moving in to bolster the already-strong 4A SPSL.
“I think we should competitive again this year. We have a lot of kids back from last year, but we have to fill a couple of holes, like three key spots in the outfield,” Puyallup coach Tony Batinovich said. “With the league, Rogers should be solid again this year, with some skilled players. But it all comes down to who gets the right hits and whether the pitching can hold up the entire course of the season.
“We have a few new teams coming in that have been competitive in their (previous) leagues, but it should be good competition. It brings out the best in the kids. Hopefully they can step up.”
With two nonleague games scheduled for Saturday (March 11) against 3A foes Prairie and Kelso, the Vikings can restart their quest in retaking the top spot in the state.
One day at a time or not, the end goal is always the same for Puyallup softball: state dominance.
“We want to win the state title. We didn’t accomplish that last year, and that only made us want to achieve that goal this year,” Joyner said. “It does take one day at a time, but we are working one day at a time to achieve our goal at the end of the season.”