Pitching a new era at MI

By Matt Phelps' email='

The Mercer Island High School fast pitch softball team has fallen on hard times. One victory in 18 league games last year was a learning experience for the younger and older players.

The problem is that it did not have the same effect on each. The Islanders will return just three seniors and no juniors this season. The lack of upper classmen will give younger players a chance to shine earlier than they expected.

"We are going to be really young," said Mercer Island head softball coach Dave Gertlar. "The young girls will get a lot of playing time. But it will be a learning experience."

Two of the most noteworthy players missing from the roster are seniors Callie Webster and Jessie Paull.

"Obviously it was a disappointment, but most of them had very valid reasons," said Gertlar. "They are dealing with their future and they need to do what is best for their future. We will just look to the future earlier."

Both players have decided to concentrate their time on other sports in preparation for being accepted to play on college teams next season. Despite the decision not to play, Webster has been at preseason practices trying to help her former teammates any way she can.

The bright side for the team is that, for the first time in the history of the program, it will have two returning pitchers with good futures in the sport.

"I think that they will be able to keep us competitive," said Gertlar. "They will give us a chance to win some games."

Pitchers, senior Lexie Higgins and sophomore Kelsey Reidy, will be the Islanders two biggest weapons this season.

"Lexie came on during the last part of the year," said Gertlar. "She threw a two hitter against Interlake. Kelsey just has a bright future."

In a sport dominated by the pitching circle, the Islanders will have experience and talent.

"I think we can win more than just the one league game we won last year,"

said Higgins. "We just have to have faith in each other and concentrate on one game at a time."

The Islanders other strength will be up the middle with senior Lauren Asher moving from outfield to second base. Freshman Molly Morey will get a chance to flash her infield skills at catcher and see more time at short stop, where Webster would have played.

"At first I was really worried," said Asher. "But we have more enthusiasm than we have ever had. I think we are all determined to make it work."

The Islanders will start the season with a tough preseason schedule.

"Anyone of those teams would be at the top of our league," said Gertlar. "If we can stay competitive against them, it will be a huge boost to our confidence. They are going to have to make mental adjustments at first but we can work on that."

Gertlar said that he has at least three or four legitimate varsity hitters that could do some damage early, while the younger girls get acclimated to the skill level.

"We have some good sophomore and freshman athletes," said Gertlar.

In 2003, the Islanders posted their second-best record in the program's history at 9-11. After last season's 3-17 record the team has only one direction in mind, moving back up.

"Last year was a big loss in momentum," said Gertlar. "But in the long run this is going to be a lot more positive than it appears right now."

Info box Head coach: Dave Gertlar (fourth year)

Assistant coach: Tad Eversole (third year).

Last year's record: 1-17 in league, and 3-17 overall.

Key athletes: Sr. Lauren Asher (outfield), Sr. Lexie Higgins (pitcher) and So. Kelsie Reidy (pitcher outfield).

Top newcomers: Freshman and sophomore classes.

Key losses: Sr. Callie Webster (shortstop), Rita Dierdorff, Molly McIntosh, Dana Shephard, Laurie Huey, Sr. Jessie Paull (first baseman), Jr. Suzanna Levin and Jr. Maryn Juergens, Jr. Mike Rothman.

Key games: All.

First league game: 4 p.m. Tuesday, March 22 vs. Cedar Park Christian.

Key to a good season: Continued improvement.

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