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Movin on up
After an unexpectedly successful season for Lakewood fastpitch in 2007, the largely junior squad returns hoping to capitalize on their late-season surge during their senior campaign.
Last season, after struggling early against the Cascade Conferences top three teams Archbishop Murphy, Cedarcrest and Granite Falls Lakewood found a rhythm, and with it, confidence. After opening their season 0-3 against the top-three league rivals, Lakewood improved to 1-2 on a second go-around and 2-1 on a third try. By the end of the season, the Cougars shared a 12-6 record with Granite Falls, earning a district play-in game against Northwest Conference foe Lynden.
Lakewood returns all four players who garnered all-league notice, including first-teamer and this years co-captain, catcher Becca Bean. Bean returns from a standout season in which she earned votes for both the leagues Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year. (The honors eventually went to Cedarcrests Hillary Barker and Murphys Kayelynne Huggins.)
Lakewood senior pitcher Kally Behen is back for the Cougars after earning props last season for a junior campaign in which she broke the school record for career strikeouts and wins in a season. Designated hitter Emily Burkholder also returns for her senior season after setting a school record for RBIs in 2007.
And Lakewoods fourth league-heralded player is sophomore Kahlee Barrio, who starts at shortstop and had the schools fourth-best batting average during her freshman year.
Bean, who eclipsed Barrios effort with the schools best-ever batting average last season, is joined in the teams leadership by senior outfielder Amanda Nunley.
The teams sixth veteran senior is outfielder Stephanie Kushner, who is expected to split duties between right field and second base.
Nunley, the teams leadoff batter, joins Bean, Behen and first baseman Hayley Bustad as the teams four-year letter winners. The quartet are described by coach Steve Barker as the nucleus of the team.
Its nice to have that much experience coming back, he added.
The teams new faces included sophomores Amanda Bean and Amber Anderson, veterans of last years junior varsity squad, and freshman Mariah Smith.
After spending last summer playing tournament ball and hosting Saturday morning batting practices during the season, Lakewood hopes their extra effort makes an impact this season. But while Lakewood returns the heart of its team, a lot of familiar faces will step up to the plate against the Cougars this season.
After finishing fourth to Murphy, Cedarcrest and Granite Falls, Lakewood hopes to use their hard work and experience to move up the rankings this season.
We felt like by the end of the season last year we were able to compete with those teams, Barker said. The first week of the season we play those top three teams, just like we did last year. Last year we really took our lumps against them the first time around, but we hope to pick up. We want to win our share.
Lakewood kicks off their season March 17 against Granite Falls before returning home to host Archbishop Murphy March 19.