With a lot to learn, and not a lot of time to do it, the Yoncalla Eagles softball team still managed to make strides this spring and lay a foundation for future success.
It’s been a whirlwind season that hasn’t always featured ideal outcomes for Yoncalla. The team won its first game, a run-fest against Glendale that found them ahead 24-23 after the final out. The Eagles also bested Riddle, 22-10, and won in another high-scoring affair at Oakland, 26-25 on May 6, then topped Lowell in the second game of a doubleheader the following day.
Last week, Yoncalla dropped a heartbreaker to Glide (May 10.) The Eagles retired the side in the first and second innings and plated a couple, but mental errors led to a 6-run inning and a lead for Glide that they’d never relinquish. On Friday, Lowell bested Yoncalla, 21-11, in a JV-style game meant to get a little more playing time for younger players.
There have been lopsided losses for Yoncalla this year, though for a very young team that doesn’t boast a lot of softball experience, perhaps that’s to be expected.
“So far, we’ve had a really good season for the young team that we’ve got,” said Eagles’ Manager Chad Ashbaugh. “The girls have really stepped up and filled positions. They’ve improved and helped us out in many ways.”
Ashbaugh laments that many of his team’s scores could’ve been closer, and that the finer details of the game at times cost the Eagles.
“We should’ve been in pretty much all of our games,” he said. “Things fall apart in one or two innings, and we have trouble keeping momentum from start to finish.”
Still, Ashbaugh believes the future looks bright for softball in Yoncalla, with youth there playing organized softball for the first time in a while and the Eagles making improvements. He said he’s also been actively recruiting players to build for the future.
“There are a lot of girls playing youth ball, and I think they’re willing to come out and try out next year,” he said. The Eagles will be losing five seniors after this season, so next year’s squad will be young once again, but Asbaugh says he can count on younger players to step up and take part in the team’s success.
This year, Yoncalla has leaned heavily on contributions from senior Kenzie Walton, an all-around player that steps up to produce whenever called upon. Another utility whiz, Ceci Potter, can step up and pitch to help the Eagles get out of a tight spot. And Ashbaugh remains excited about the play of Ali VanLoon, a junior who plays lights-out defense despite not having played softball since sixth grade.
“I can’t wait to see what next year brings for her,” he said.
The Eagles were scheduled to wrap their season with a doubleheader at Elkton last night (after press deadlines)
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