Change brings hope for success for Siuslaw softball

The 2022-23 Siuslaw Viking softball team, back row, from left: Savannah Petrovic, Jolee Erickson, Zaelyn Stinger, Rilee Bledsoe, Sunshine Armer, Sophia Montoya, Kimberly Martinez-Munoz and Coach Brian Riggs. Middle row, from left: Makayla Bender, Abby Riggs, Jordyn Breeden, Claire Lindell, Brynlee Manues, Ashley Hennessee, Mikenzie Lowe and Madison McCullough. Front row, from left: Coach Bailey Overton, Macali Lade, Kylee Stinger, Kristin Wall, Cate Waggoner, Meika Shappell and Elizabeth Redelfs. Not pictured Makayla Freeman, Jozalyn Hulet and Coach Dave Bitner. Photo by Zac Burtt/Siuslaw News

2023 team debuts in 3A Mountain Valley Conf under new coach

March 15, 2023 — The Siuslaw Viking softball team can only go up. The team hasn’t won a game in almost two years (8-7 over Cottage Grove, April 30, 2021) and they were outscored by their opponents by an average score of 13-4 during last season.

Luckily for Viking fans softball is a spring sport and as the saying goes, when it comes to this time of year ‘hope springs eternal.’ In order to snap the 26-game losing streak the Viks are currently in the middle of it will take not only hope, but also a change in how the team has done things in the past. Change must come from the top. Early in the school year Siuslaw Athletic Director Chris Johnson introduced Brian Riggs as the new varsity softball coach.

Riggs has fairly simple goals for his team this season.

“Our goals are to have fun, have a positive attitude and build from there,” said Riggs.

From what the coach can see thus far, those goals are certainly attainable.

“They’re doing super well this year,” Riggs mentioned. “We need that strong and steady growth throughout the season so that’s what we’ll look for from our players. Then we will look to start to develop some of the younger players.”

They say defense wins ball games. Wins are something the Vikings would love to get this year, so early in the season a lot of that effort will be focused on developing a young pitching staff that is filled with underclassmen.

“I’ve been surprised by our pitching this year,” said Riggs. “Most likely we will have Cate Waggoner (a junior and the team’s captain), we will have Jolee Erickson (sophomore). Makayla Bender (sophomore), Ashley Hennesee (junior) and senior Kristin Wall also pitch sometimes. We have a lot of pitchers but we’re still figuring out where we’re at.”

When Siuslaw comes to bat this softball season, they will have a large hole till fill by the legacy left by last year’s seniors, especially Bailey Overton, maybe the greatest softballer in SHS history, who once clubbed four homers in four consecutive at bats in one game.

Coach Riggs was honest about the potential for filling that Grand Canyon-sized whole left by the outstanding former infielder.

“We don’t have anyone that can replace Bailey,” he said but did have some news that gave a little hope that some of that Overton magic may be a part of this season anyway, “Good news is Bailey Overton is back as a coach.”

Overton hopes she can use her experience to help the team to work as a more cohesive unit.

“I want to see the girls I used to play with, and even the new ones I haven’t, get better themselves while helping each other get better at the same time,” said the recent Siuslaw graduate. “I’m really just excited to bring my knowledge of softball to the community.”

Though there may not be any Bailey Overtons on the team (yet), Riggs did list girls he thought would be important contributors this season.

“We’ve got junior Ashley Hennesee back,” said Riggs. “Abigail Riggs (sophomore) returns. Glad to have Claire Lindell (sophomore) back too.”

Coach Riggs was clear that every girl on the varsity team would be counted on to make some sort of contribution.

“Sunshine Armer is new to the team this year but is one of our two seniors,” said Riggs. “Junior Brynlee Manues will start the season behind the plate. Can’t forget Kimberly Martinez-Munoz and Sophia Montoya, two sophomores who have earned spots on varsity.”

Starting with the 2022-23 school year, Siuslaw dropped down from the 4A to 3A classification. That puts the Viking softball team in the Mountain Valley League. Last season Harrisburg and Pleasant Hill tied at the top of the standings in the league with 9-3 records. This year early season prognosticators have Pleasant Hill as league favorites, with Elmira/Mapleton and Creswell also expected to field strong teams. Elmira/Mapleton’s pitching staff is led by Mapleton sophomore Morgan Milbrett who plays for the team as part of a co-op agreement between the schools.

The Viks opened the season at home on March 14 with a non-league game versus Sutherlin that they lost 16-1. The next day, on Wednesday March 15, the team had a home game agains the Junction City Tigers scheduled. It was cancelled as the result of poor field conditions. The team will cap a busy first week of the season this afternoon at Coquille. First pitch against the Red Devils is at 4:30 p.m.