First year head coach Jim Ebel during a light moment last spring with graduated third baseman Tasji Urhausen.
Indians still have plenty of weapons
Colville Highâ€™s high-flying softball program will look a little different this spring for a couple of reasons.
First, the Indians are back in the familiar confines of the 2A Great Northern League for at least a two-year WIAA enrollment cycle. And second, assistant coach Jim Ebel has been elevated to head coach after Mandy Sumner, who guided the Indians to the cusp of a State 1A championship the past two seasons, resigned. Gone with Sumner is her husband, assistant coach Rob Sumner.
Last May, the Indians got as close to a State championship as any team can get without actually winning the thing. CHS (23-4) came within a break or two of bringing home the schoolâ€™s first fast-pitch softball title, losing a heart-breaking 4-3 decision in nine innings to 1A champion Connell in the title game at Richland.
While some of the faces have changed on the field and in the dugout for Colville, there is still certainly enough remaining talent for the Indians to contend for a GNL championship this spring.
Key components have graduated
Colville will need to fill some big shoes, most notably departed All-State pitcher Jolene Rogers, third baseman Tasji Urhausen (playing at Spokane Falls Community College) and outfielder Cassie Cote.
â€śWe lost some very good players (graduation), but we have a veteran team coming back,â€ť Ebel said.
It didnâ€™t help the depth, or the starting line-up any this spring when the Indians lost a couple of projected starters who moved out of the district. Another player opted to play tennis this spring.
But Ebel likes what heâ€™s seen so far.
â€śWeâ€™re still fairly deep,â€ť he said. â€śSince we have a lot of juniors, there are a lot of kids that have a lot of softball background.â€ť
The strength of the 2013 CHS line-up is up the middle, where All-NEA catcher Jammie Madonna returns for her senior season. One of the best catchers to ever play for Colville High will play for North Idaho College next fall.
The pitching duties will fall on junior right-hander McKenna Cabbage. As a sophomore, Cabbage played first base and backed up Rogers in the circle. Sheâ€™s pretty much the show this spring. McKenna has already shown that she can dominate at times.
â€śOur battery is definitely a strength of this team,â€ť Ebel said.
AT A GLANCE
Anchoring the outfield will be four-year varsity starter Leanna Carr in right.
The Indians return another veteran all-league performer in senior shortstop Taylor Kellum.
At first base and DH will be second year varsity performer and senior Jalene Howell.
The junior class includes returning starting outfielder Jessi Wittmeyer (centerfield) and fellow returning varsity starter, April Hinds, at second base.
Vying for time at third base will be junior Emily Poling, whoâ€™s up from the junior varsity.
Miranda Tostenson and fellow junior Nyshel Pease will likely see action in the outfield. Pease, who lackâ€™s the softball experience of some of the other CHS players, is a solid athlete who could see time in the infield or outfield.
Junior Hannah Smith, up from the CHS junior varsity, is competing for playing time in the infield and outfield.
Sophomore Kayla Howes will back up Madonna behind the plate and possibly see some time at third base or in left field.
Another sophomore, McKenna Iverson, could see some time in the circle or in the infield.
Freshman Baylee Main will swing between varsity and junior varsity. She will pitch for the junior varsity and likely work in the infield.
This yearâ€™s coaching staff includes assistants Tim Vaughn, Jim Noetzelman and junior varsity coach and former CHS standout, Jennica Ebel.
AROUND THE LEAGUE
Any talk of a leagueâ€™s power base, whether itâ€™s the GNL or the NEA, has to start with Colville. The tradition-rich program still has enough firepower to win another league championship and make a deep playoff run.
Ebel, who assisted the CHS program for three seasons and has been involved with the Tribe off-season softball program for 15 years, conceded that he doesnâ€™t know a lot about this yearâ€™s GNL rivals.
â€śCheney has some good pitching and West Valley lost two senior pitchers, but they should be right there,â€ť the first-year head coach said.
Holes to fill
At this juncture, Ebel is more concerned about several holes in his own line-up.
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â€śWe have inexperience at several positionsâ€”one-third of our positions arenâ€™t filled right now. We have several girls battling for those spots,â€ť Ebel pointed out.
â€śWe should be right thereâ€¦we will be good eventually.â€ť
Itâ€™s all about fundamentalsâ€¦fundamentalsâ€¦fundamentalsâ€¦at this early point in the spring.
â€śWeâ€™re just trying to get them to buy into the fact that you have to be repetitive with your fundamentals,â€ť Ebel emphasized.
Colville opens on March 14 at Coeur dâ€™ Alene against Idaho power Lake City (4 p.m. start).
The Indians will return home on Tuesday, March 19 for their home opener against East Valley. That single game gets started at 4 p.m.