By Ray Hamill — The Eureka Loggers will be hoping to pick up just where they left off last year when they finally get the new softball season started at St. Helena next week.
The Eureka girls enjoyed an outstanding season in 2022, finishing 27-3, with all three of their losses coming by just a single run.
A talented Loggers lineup was clearly the best team in the H-DN after claiming a Big 5 and Charlie Lakin Tournament championship double, and they followed that by making it all the way to the North Coast Section Division-3 championship game and the NorCal semifinals.
This spring, head coach Robin Johnson and her players will be hoping for more of the same and a possible first-ever NCS championship.
With senior Kira Morris back in the circle, they certainly appear to have the pitching to take them far, while a dangerous looking lineup should pack a punch at the plate.
“We’ve got some good returners and we’ve got some good new players,” Johnson said. “I think the returners will show the new girls what high school softball is about and show them the ropes.
“I think we’re going to be scrappy and I’m looking forward to another solid year.”
For the Loggers, it all begins in the circle with Morris.
The sensational senior was 24-2 last season with an ERA of 1.31, while striking out a remarkable 263 batters in 171.1 innings.
And she was equally effective at the plate, with a .505 average and team-highs in RBIs (54) and home runs (seven).
The Loggers graduated just two seniors from last year’s team — Big 5 MVP McKenna Beach and Payton Goodman — but they will play this season without the injured Kaitlin Giacone, who had figured to play a major role for the team before suffering a knee injury in the final game of the basketball season.
Giacone, however, has been an ever-present at practice and still figures to play a role from the dugout, while Johnson has several talented players ready to pick up the slack, most notably seniors Maeghan Hampton and Zia Gee.
Hampton will switch from shortstop to catcher to replace Beach (who is enjoying an impressive debut season at Cal Poly Humboldt), while Gee will return at first base.
Another senior, Taliyah Cooper, also returns this spring, along with junior Kylee Smith, and both players are expected to play a bigger role on offense.
Tahlyia Curtice and Ileah Brannon round out a talented group of six seniors who will provide some much-needed leadership, while juniors Isis Poteet and Natalia Anello are also expected to play key roles.
Likewise with talented sophomore Mallorie Beauchamp, who saw substantial playing time in 2022, while a pair of freshmen — Bailey Brown and Cassie Breazeal — are both expected to make an immediate impact.
Like with many teams around the league, early-season practice has been affected by the weather here on the North Coast, but the Eureka girls are embracing the challenge.
“It’s been going good,” Johnson said of practice. “Obviously, it’s been a challenge with the rain, but we’re doing our best.”
Johnson also is expecting a battle in league this year and knows that retaining the Big 5 title they won a year ago won’t be easy.
“I’m looking forward to some good competition between all the schools,” the second-year head coach said. “We’ve got to take one game at a time.”
Johnson be joined in the dugout this season by new assistant coach Cheyenne King.
The Loggers are scheduled to open the new season at St. Helena next Friday and will play at Napa the following day.
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