The Eagle High softball team enters the season not only as a conference or state favorite. The Mustangs also are drawing national attention, ranked No. 6 in the country by MaxPreps.com. After posting a 30-1 record last season on its way to the 5A state title, outscoring opponents by an average of 12 runs a game and returning a boatload of college talent, it’s not hard to see why.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Bradie Fillmore, sr., P/SS, Eagle
After dominating the state for three years, the Cal signee finally enters her senior season. Fillmore racked up unbelieveable numbers to lead the Mustangs to the state title as a junior, hitting .609 with 14 home runs and 71 RBIs and posting a 0.43 ERA with 179 strikeouts in 98 innings.
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“I wish her the best in her senior year because she can get it done at the plate, from the mound or on the field,” Rocky Mountain coach Missy Nichols said. “She’s just feisty and competitive no matter where you put her. From the mound, her rise is nearly unstoppable.”
Coach: Brian Barber, eighth season
Last year: 17-11, 11-5 5A SIC
Returning all-conference: Isabelle Butler, sr., SS (first team); Elena Cook, sr., OF (first team); Trinity Cook, sr., P (first team)
Breakdown: After starting four freshmen last season, the Braves could take a leap up the standings with more experience. Boise returns seven varsity members, including a pair of Division I signees in shortstop Isabelle Butler (Boise State) and outfielder Elena Cook (Portland State).
Coach: Missy Wheeler, fifth season
Last year: 4-18, 2-14 5A SIC
Returning all-conference: Lily Gregory, jr., OF (second team); Amaya Bentley, jr., SS (honorable mention)
Breakdown: Borah returns eight varsity members, including Bentley, who hit .429 with five home runs last season, and Gregory, who hit .500. The Lions will have to break in a freshman catcher after the loss of three-year starter Michal Bilger.
Coach: Shane Alder, 10th season
Last year: 13-11, 12-4 5A SIC
Returning all-conference: Hannah Spero, sr., INF (first team); Alex Wilson-Jenkins, jr., P (second team); Brynn Dittman, sr., OF (honorable mention); Hanah Hazel, jr., INF (honorable mention); Devanie Ferguson, so., INF (honorable mention)
Breakdown: The Eagles only field two seniors, but they return loads of talent with eight varsity members. Spero, who will play at Central Washington next year, leads a dangerous lineup that could threaten the traditional powers.
Coach: Dean Diffin, first season (seventh overall)
Last year: 10-15, 7-9 5A SIC
Returning all-conference: Carolyn Murrey, sr., 1B (honorable mention); Kaitlyn Allen, so., OF (honorable mention)
Breakdown: Diffin returns to the program after taking two years off. He inherits a young team, but said the Patriots can swing the bat, especially slugging first baseman Carolyn Murrey. “Being a young team, we can’t beat ourselves and need to make good decisions,” Diffin said.
Coach: Kerri Pline, second season
Last year: 2-21, 1-15 5A SIC
Returning all-conference: Tayler Drake, sr., OF (honorable mention)
Breakdown: The Wildcats return five players from last year’s squad, which struggled with the transition to 5A. Pline said it’ll take awhile for Columbia to get up to speed, but she likes an offense led by Drake, who hit .404 out of the leadoff spot last year.
Coach: Nicole Rollins, first season
Last year: 30-1, 16-0 5A SIC
Returning all-conference: Bradie Fillmore, sr., P/SS (player of the year); Autumn Moffat, jr., P/SS (first team); Martha Tooley, sr., 3B (first team); Maddie Strickler, sr., OF (first team); Kelly Kukla, jr., INF (second team); Hailey Fisher, jr., 1B (honorable mention); Rachel Menlove, jr., C (honorable mention); Ashley French, jr., OF (honorable mention)
Breakdown: The Mustangs begin a new era as former assistant Nicole Rollins takes over for Doug Corta, who died in November after fighting a brain tumor. She inherits a formidable squad at the plate with three returners who hit better than .500 last year, and seven who topped .400. With Bradie Fillmore (Cal signee) and Autumn Moffat (BYU commit) in the circle, opponents will need to scratch for any runs.
Coach: Thomas Pinkley, 10th season
Last year: 19-12, 7-9 5A SIC
Returning all-conference: Lexi Knauss, jr., SS (second team); Keana Reyes-Burke, jr., CF (second team)
Breakdown: Last year’s third-place finisher at state adds four freshmen to the starting lineup, including two pitchers. Pinkley said one of the league’s best defensive squads should be even better this year. “Our overall skill and talent is better than last year’s team,” he said.
MOUNTAIN VIEW MAVERICKS
Coach: Tim Souza, third season
Last year: 20-9, 11-5 5A SIC
Returning all-conference: Megan Browne, sr., P (honorable mention); Annalisa Hawk, sr., INF (honorable mention)
Breakdown: The defending district champs were the only team that knocked off Eagle last season. Brown (Eastern Oregon commit) remains a dominant force inside the pitcher’s circle, but the Mavericks are rebuilding a young squad around her.
Coach: Jim Beebe, sixth season
Last year: 4-20, 3-13 5A SIC
Returning all-conference: None
Breakdown: Sophomore Kayleigh Hibbard carries the bulk of the load for Nampa, batting cleanup after hitting over .400 last season, and pitching the bulk of the innings. Look for third baseman Katherine Tiffany to provide some lineup protection.
ROCKY MOUNTAIN GRIZZLIES
Coach: Missy Nichols, third season
Last year: 23-6, 14-2 5A SIC
Returning all-conference: Courtney Pestka, sr., CF (first team); Hailey Hicks, sr., SS (second team); Sammy Lasure, sr., RF (honorable mention);
Breakdown: The Grizzlies look to rebound after finishing second in the 5A SIC regular season, then failing to make it to state. A loaded lineup should help ensure that doesn’t happen again. Center fielder Courtney Pestka (Weber State signee) hit .480 last year with 25 stolen bases. Hicks (College of Idaho signee) hit .321 with four home runs.
Coach: John Stegmaier, second season
Last year: 4-20, 3-13 5A SIC
Returning all-conference: Cassie Schmidt, so., 1B/3B/P (honorable mention)
Breakdown: The Wolves remain short on experience on varsity and on the club circuit. But junior pitcher Audry Sievers gives Timberline one steady hand as she returns for her second year as a starter.
Coach: Kevin Schimmelpfennig, sixth season
Last year: 18-12, 9-7 5A SIC
Returning all-conference: Kona Bustos, so., SS (honorable mention); Emma Longoria, jr., 3B (honorable mention); Melice Rodriguez, jr., C (honorable mention); Naomi Ward, sr., OF (honorable mention)
Breakdown: Graduation robbed the Falcons of two four-year starters and a three-year starter, leaving a hole in the pitcher’s circle. But with a young group led by Kona Bustos, who hit .424 as a freshman, Schimmelpfennig said Vallivue could play a spoiler role at district.
Team (1st-place votes)
1. Eagle (12)
2. Rocky Mountain
3. Mountain View