This is Bethel High School softball coach Rachael Barger’s final season coaching her alma mater. She plans to pursue an administrative position and said she wants to go out with this senior group that transformed the program from feeble to fruitful.
But for next year, she might consider recommending Brittany Genuardi.
Genuardi is in her fourth season starting as the Braves’ catcher, where she’s helped lead Bethel to back-to-back 4A state tournament appearances — the only two trips in school history since its lone appearance in what was then the state slow pitch tournament in 1986.
She calls pitches, throws out the baserunners naive enough to test her and hit .486 with 11 home runs in the middle of the batting order last season. She plans to play at Northwest Nazarene, an NCAA Division II school in Idaho, next year.
“Game on the line, you kind of hope she isn’t going to be the one up at the plate,” Puyallup softball coach Tony Batinovich said. “I’d walk her. I probably wouldn’t pitch to her if the situation was that important. You have to have respect for her.”
Then there’s off the field, where Genuardi might as well have her own side job coaching.
She’s got a net and plate in her garage, so she’s hosted younger players to work on hitting. One is sophomore McKenna Henderson. A coach recommended another player to head her direction last season, and so did the mom of another.
“I got this text saying, ‘I’d really like it if you’d help me with my hitting, is there any time you could work with me,’” Genuardi said. “And I’m like, ‘I’ll make time.’ I love that stuff.”
Barger said she noticed Genuardi’s leadership abilities from the day her star player entered the program four years ago.
Only Bethel will need them this year more than ever. It’s much younger than the past two years, returning just four starters from last year’s state run, which ended one win shy of a state trophy (fourth place or higher).
So young that Barger, who played on Bethel’s softball team before graduating in 1998, told her team after its 11-9 win over Olympia on Thursday that she thought they played “scrappy.”
“And someone says, ‘What’s scrappy? What even is that?’ ” Barger said. “I’m like, ‘It’s a cartoon character from when I was little.’ ”
Barger calls on her players to set examples. When something needs to be said, she sometimes asks her three seniors — Genuardi, Alyssa Olson and Kaylee Fish — to say it.
“It’s like they’re three little coaches, already, in these three little bodies,” Barger said with a laugh. “I think players take more ownership if it’s coming from their teammates.”
Genuardi could also play middle infield, but she’s too valuable calling pitches behind the plate and working with pitchers Fish and Olson.
She called pitches in spurts the past three years, catching for last year’s 4A South Puget Sound League pitcher of the year Rylee Thomas. But she’ll do so far more often this season.
“I trust her,” Olson said. “She knows what she is doing and she’s good at what she does.”
“Being a catcher you kind of have to be a leader on and off the field,” Genuardi said. “When I was a freshman, I was kind of quiet, but as I’ve grown up it’s been more and more.”
She also remembers teammates not liking her at first — she has an intensity that’s intimidating, especially toward opposing baserunners.
Fish remembers seeing it for the first time.
“One day at practice I had to be a baserunner at first and she was just staring at me,” Fish said. “I was super scared. I was like, ‘Oh my God.’ Her eyes — they hunt you down.”
Said Barger: “I look down and I’m thinking, ‘Is she mad at me?’ But it’s more of that stern focus. She’s in the moment, telling herself, ‘That kid is not stealing.’ ”
Genuardi said her only hope this year is to send Barger off right.
“We wanted to come in on a high note, and hopefully end on a high note and make it back to state,” Genuardi said. “But we can only play one game at a time.”
Said Fish: “We want to make sure they are ready next year to keep up the name that we started. I feel like around the community people are talking about Bethel fastpitch more and that’s different from when we came in.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
High school softball primer
TEAM TO BEAT
Tahoma didn’t win its district tournament, but that was without Mia Corbin, the Cal soccer commit who missed it due to a club soccer tournament. When she returned, the Bears ran to their second state title in school history and first since 1988. She sets the table for the power bats behind her with Carley Nance and Delaney Nelson returning, too.
4A Narrows — Gig Harbor. 4A SPSL North — Tahoma. 4A SPSL South — Puyallup. 3A Narrows — Central Kitsap. 3A SPSL — Enumclaw. 2A SPSL — Fife. 2A Evergreen — W.F. West. 1A Nisqually — Seattle Christian.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Quinn Breidenbach, P, Enumclaw, sr.: Reigning Gatorade state player of the year had 0.74 ERA in 104 IP and hit .507. Will play softball at UMass.
Mia Corbin, SS, Tahoma, sr.: Twice earned 4A SPSL North player of the year and this isn’t even her main sport. Will play soccer at Cal.
Emily Ensrud, OF, Puyallup, sr.: Leadoff hitter and reigning 4A SPSL South MVP hit .585 last year. Will play softball at South Dakota State.
Brittany Genuardi, C, Bethel, sr.: Four-year starting catcher an integral part of Bethel’s lone two state trips. Will play softball at Northwest Nazarene.
Jourdin Hering, OF, Todd Beamer, sr.: Two-time TNT first-team All-Area pick hit .447 with 17 extra-base hits last year. Will play softball at Stony Brook.
BEST OF THE REST
4A Narrows — P Jordan Adams, Gig Harbor, jr.; OF Ally Choate, Yelm, jr.; UTIL, Abbie Hutton, Gig Harbor, sr.; CI Alyssa McKiernan, Bellarmine Prep, sr.; OF Erin Roloff, Olympia, sr.; P Chelsea Smith, Bellarmine Prep, so.
3A Narrows — MI Marissa Adams, Central Kitsap, jr.; C Lindsey Corey, Shelton, sr.; OF Aurora Gouley, Shelton, sr.; P Hope Lawrence, Central Kitsap, sr.; P Maddy Lincoln, Capital, sr.; INF Kayla Washington, Wilson, jr.
4A SPSL North — MI Ashton Bledsoe, Kentridge, sr.; UTIL Kyleigh Carbon, Jefferson, sr.; P Sophia Musiak, Decatur, jr.; P Carley Nance, Tahoma, sr.; CI Delaney Nelson, Tahoma, sr.; MI Lagi Palaita, Kentwood, so.; UTIL Maddy Seumalo, Kentlake, sr.; UTIL Mariah Peterson, Mt. Rainier, sr.; CI Tally Thomas, Federal Way, jr.
4A SPSL South — OF Aryanna Areneaux, Emerald Ridge, sr.; INF Kelsey Breer, Rogers, sr.; OF Jamie Crawford, Graham-Kapowsin, sr.; INF Natalie Joyner, Puyallup, jr.; UTIL Alyssa Olson, Bethel, sr.; P Jessica O’Toole, Rogers, sr.; P Kennedy Robillard, Puyallup, jr.; P/OF Jaedyn Shaughnessy, Curtis, jr.
3A SPSL — UTIL Madelyn Carlson, Enumclaw, jr.; P Zoe Collins, Auburn Mountainview, jr.; INF Emily Martinez, Auburn Mountainview, jr.; UTIL Hannah Mustain, Auburn, sr.; P Brooke Nelson, Bonney Lake, fr.
2A SPSL — INF Alycia Bannan, Orting, jr.; P Anna Kasner, Fife, sr.; OF Mary Forbes, Steilacoom, sr.; OF Jordanne Fray, White River, sr.; INF Kaitlynn Gain, Fife, jr.; C Madison Nasinec, Orting, sr.; INF Megan Vandegrift, White River, so.
Others — P/INF Mallory Eckroth, Cascade Christian, so.; C Jamie Hoffman, Cascade Christian, so.; MI Makenna McVey, Vashon, jr.; MI Hannah Mitchell, Eatonville, sr.; P Jenai Schwark, Evergreen Lutheran, sr.
TJ Cotterill: firstname.lastname@example.org