Considering the future of W.F. West High School’s softball program, Kindra Davis gestured to the past.
The outfield fence at Recreation Park in Chehalis is lined with banners, listing the accolades of a program that has become a perennial power in the 2A classification.
W.F. West, the reigning Class 2A state champion, has two titles in the past four seasons (2015 and 2012), and has advanced to the state tournament — in 3A or 2A — each of the past 12 years.
“It’s nerve-wracking, but it’s so exciting,” Davis said. “Just the fact that we have three years together to build up this program even more than it already is.”
Davis is one of three sophomores — pitcher Ashlee Vadala and shortstop Olivia Dean are the other two — starting up the middle for the Bearcats this season.
The team isn’t returning its core. Three-time 2A Evergreen Conference MVP Ali Graham is pitching at Oregon Tech. Four-year catcher Caitlin Reynolds is at Pacific in California. And Jessica McKay — W.F. West’s starting shortstop who is headed to Boise State next season — went down with a season-ending knee injury in December, when the Bearcats lost to Burlington-Edison in basketball.
This isn’t last year’s team.
“I don’t think it will be easy,” said W.F. West coach Mike Keen, now in his 14th season. “Those seniors all brought leadership with them, whether they realize it or not, they did. They were the calming factor.”
“No, we have three sophomores that are just jacked up on everything. They run wherever they go.”
That type of youthful exuberance will fuel the Bearcats this season.
“We’re a little bit less experienced, but I think that probably won’t be an issue because we’ve all played at a high level,” Vadala said. “I think we’ll be fine. We’ve worked really hard this offseason.”
Vadala, who throws a fastball, cut fastball, changeup, curveball and rise ball, went 6-0 with a 1.95 ERA last season. She also broke the school single-season home run record with eight.
Vadala has known Davis — who will call every game she catches this season — since they were in kindergarten, and they’ve played together sporadically ever since.
“We’re both really nervous, but we’re getting used to it, we’re getting back into it,” Davis said. “We’re doing everything together that we should. It’s just getting used to filling those big shoes.”
Davis missed her freshman season after tearing her anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee. She’s been committed to Boise State since November 2014, but rode the bench during the state title run last year.
“I went to almost every home game, traveled with the team and did everything they did. I just couldn’t play,” Davis said.
Davis made the trek to Spokane for the state championship, and cheered from the bench. This season, she’s just happy to be in full gear after spending most of her rehabilitation time catching from sitting on top of a bucket.
“This is my first high school season, and I’m so excited,” Davis said.
Dean played second base during the state championship last year, but has been moved to shortstop with McKay’s injury.
“When I was playing for select (club softball), I always played shortstop,” she said. “When I got to high school, they switched me to second. But we’re getting back to it. It just feels natural, it feels good to be here.”
McKay will assist the coaching staff, and provide whatever guidance she can as the Bearcats try to keep rolling on in season that has them at 3-0.
“I think they’re ready,” McKay said. “I think it will be a good year. We have a lot of girls that are experienced beyond just high school level.”
And a few that could potentially play for four titles in a row.
“I think we need to keep the intensity up,” Vadala said. “Sometimes I feel like we expect things to happen rather than work hard to do it. At practice, we don’t mess around, we keep things serious. I think if we just keep going the way we were, we’ll be perfectly fine.”
She insists there’s no fatigue from bringing home the trophy last season.
“I still want it. Definitely still want it,” Vadala said. “The drive is still there.”
High school softball primer
Team to beat
With two state championships in the past four years (2015 and 2012), W.F. West has become a perennial presence in the 2A classification. Three-time 2A EvCo MVP pitcher Ali Graham and four-year catcher Caitlin Reynolds have graduated, and stud shortstop Jessica McKay is out with a knee injury, but the Bearcats still have depth. Sophomore pitcher-catcher combo Ashlee Vadala and Kindra Davis, along with Olivia Dean taking over at short, are ready to usher in a wave of W.F. West dominance that could last as long as three more years.
4A Narrows: Gig Harbor, Yelm, Bellarmine Prep, Olympia, South Kitsap, Timberline, Stadium.
3A Narrows: Central Kitsap, Shelton, Capital, North Thurston, Wilson, Lincoln, Mount Tahoma, Foss.
2A SPSL: Fife, Orting, White River, River Ridge, Steilacoom, Washington, Franklin Pierce, Clover Park.
2A EvCo: W.F. West, Tumwater, Black Hills, Centralia.
1A EvCo: Montesano, Hoquiam, Rochester, Elma, Tenino, Aberdeen, Eatonville, Forks.
2B Pacific: North Beach, Ilwaco, Ocosta, Rainier, Tacoma Baptist, Chief Leschi.
Mark the date
Defending champion W.F. West hosts White River in a replay of last year’s 2A state-championship game at 4:30 p.m. on April 18 at Recreation Park in Chehalis.
Players to watch
Jocelyn Glasgo, P, Tumwater, sr.: Was the pitching MVP runner-up for the 2A EvCo last season behind W.F. West’s Ali Graham. Leads a T-Birds team that returns seven starters.
Ally Choate, OF, Yelm, jr.: The speedy left-handed slap-hitter has a batting average of more than .600 for the past two seasons. Hit .634 as a sophomore with an on-base percentage of .679, and is committed to Seattle University.
Erin Roloff, OF, Olympia, sr.: Gets the Bears going on the base paths. She was 20 of 22 on stolen base attempts and finished with a .479 batting average. Was a first-team all-4A Narrows selection last season and signed with Cal Poly in November.
Ashlee Vadala, P/INF, W.F. West, so.: Has some big shoes to fill with Ali Graham off pitching at Oregon Tech, but went undefeated last season at 6-0 with a 1.95 ERA. Was a first-team all-2A EvCo selection, hit .472 and broke the program’s home run record with eight.
Kassi Ward, C, Black Hills, jr.: Missed seven games with an injury last season, but hit lights-out in the 13 she did play in. Finished with a .491 batting average and a .667 slugging percentage. Had 22 RBIs and four home runs and was a first-team all-2A EvCo selection at designated hitter.
Best of the rest: Roni Braun, W.F. West, OF, sr.; Tiffany Card, Rainier, C; Kaylee Clarke, Tumwater, INF, sr.; Lindsey Corey, Shelton, C, sr.; Kindra Davis, W.F. West, C, so.; Olivia Dean, W.F. West, INF, so.; Nicki Dehan, Yelm, INF, sr.; Taylin Friend, Olympia, INF, jr.; Aly Gill, Black Hills, INF, soph.; Aurora Gouley, Shelton, INF/OF, sr.; Kelsey Killough, Tumwater, C, sr.; Maddy Lincoln, Capital, P, sr.; Angie Matthews, Rainier, P; Matlyne Mecham, Shelton, INF, jr.; Alyvia Owen, Tumwater, OF, sr.; Glynne Saelid, Olympia, INF, jr.; Drea Schwaier, Yelm, P, so.; Makenzie Sylvester, Timberline, OF, sr.; Brooklyn Taylor-Sparks, Timberline, INF, jr.; Neka Viveros, Yelm, OF, sr.; Chantal Won, Black Hills, OF, so.
Lauren Smith: email@example.com