In a lot of ways, Emily Ensrud encompasses what it means to be a Puyallup Viking softball player.
Nearly two years removed after the Vikings won their second Class 4A state championship, Puyallup enters this season loaded with a roster fresh with memories of that state run.
And in the center — playing center field, coincidentally — of it all, stands Ensrud.
Expectations are high for Puyallup entering the season as Ensrud and company look for a return to the 4A state bracket after being ousted from the playoffs by Todd Beamer last year at districts.
“I know that we as a team know what it’s like to win a state title and what it’s like to fall one game short of state,” Ensrud said. “Coming off that (loss), we all have that fire lit inside of us to make it back to state, because we all really worked hard to get to where we were two years ago.”
Puyallup finished last season 12-8 overall, but its run through the 4A South Puget Sound League South — finishing with an 8-2 record — helped the Vikings secure their second consecutive league title.
The truth behind Puyallup’s state title and their two league runs over the last few seasons — as well as the team’s overall ability to dominate opponents at times — was the fact the Vikings were young. That is still the case.
Last year Puyallup only had two seniors, Bailey Plumb and Kianna Hess, listed on the active roster. The Vikings have tripled that senior class number by virtue of another year this season, and Ensrud is at the top of that group.
Slated for her third consecutive season patrolling the outfield, Ensrud feels it’s time for the Vikings to take back what’s theirs.
“For some of us, it’s our second year playing together, and for most us it’s our third or fourth season together,” she said. “I just know we (have) all become lot a closer through the offseason work and effort. I’m just excited about all that going into the season.”
Even with the confidence high at camp, the Vikings have some uncertainties heading into the season. With no clear No. 1 starter slated, it’s going to put a lot of pressure on the Vikings’ offense to get the job done.
But that’s a task Puyallup coach Tony Batinovich feels the Vikings are up to as they try to outduel both Rogers and Bethel for the South title.
It all comes down to when we actually start to play, as I think we can be competitive with about anybody. It’s going to be a competitive year for us.
Puyallup High coach
“We got a good nucleus, solid kids were brought back from last year, and some of them might have improved and gotten a little better,” Batinovich said. “We brought in a couple of freshman, and they might be able to play a little bit. It all comes down to when we actually start to play, as I think we can be competitive with about anybody. It’s going to be a competitive year for us.”
With the season set to start this week after rain forced the cancellation of opening weekend, Puyallup is primed to get back to where they were two years ago when it surprised the state.
Now with expectations as high as ever, it will be the experience of the highs and lows of the past two seasons that will carry the Vikings this year.
And as far as Enrud is concerned, there’s too much on Puyallup’s roster to not make a return to glory.
“We know we have the talent to do it,” Ensrud emphatically stated. “It’s the same goals as last year, obviously: make it to state and defend our name and be the best we can be. But it’s also the new goals saying, ‘We didn’t make it to state last year.’ Let’s make sure we do it this year.
“It’s not making sure it’s an ‘if’ but ‘when’ we making it back, and we’re working hard to make that happen.”