Husky softball team aiming for return to state playoffs

Last year, Sweet Home’s softball team finished the season 19-7 overall and placed third in the Oregon West Conference with a 13-5 record.

They won a play-in game against Gladstone 12-2 but then got blown out on the road at Henley 15-0 in the ensuing playoff game.

This year, new Head Coach Emily Marchbanks hopes to make a return trip to the playoffs.

“Our goal is to get to state and go to postseason,” said Marchbanks, who starred as a pitcher for the Huskies before graduating in 2014. After completing her college career, she’s spent the last four years as an assistant to Karyn Hartsook before taking the helm.

“I feel like that goal is achievable with this group,” she said.

Marchbanks said she thinks that the Huskies will be in the mix in the OWC, in which Cascade and Stayton finished as the top two teams last year.

“I don’t see anybody in our league who we can’t compete with.” This year the OWC adds North Marion while dropping Sisters, which moved down to the 3A Division, and Woodburn, which moved back up to 5A.

Sweet Home will be without some talented seniors who graduated last year, including Team MVP and First Team All-League catcher Chloe Fairchild, First Team utility player and Second Team pitcher Maddie Harris, First Team infielder Mykel Johnston, and Second Team infielder Adaira Sleutel.

But the Huskies return Second Team infielder Brooke Burke, a senior; Second Team outfielder Riley Watkins, a junior; and senior Makayla Guthrie, an Honorable Mention pitcher.

“I’m really excited about the season,” Marchbanks said.

“I have very wonderful seniors who are providing a lot of leadership on our team, because it is relatively young.”

She said that Guthrie will be a big part of the team’s success, also mentioning Burke, at shortstop, and fellow senior Kelsie Rush, a right fielder.

“I think that they will be a very integral part of our success with their leadership and consistency,” the coach said.

Marchbanks said the team hasn’t been able to practice outside as much as they’d like to because of rain so far this season, but has been doing a lot of hitting and focusing on their approach when up to bat, as well as working on staying mentally tough and dealing with different situations.

She said that Sweet Home’s defense will be a strength, especially with its pitching, and that the team is very fast and quick.

But she said the squad will need to improve its hitting and is currently working towards that goal.

Rounding out the Husky roster are senior Nora Pettner, junior Adisen Graber, sophomore Jocelyn Fairchild, and freshmen Trinity Victor, Aubrey Newberry, Addy Vannice, and Natalie Smith.

Along with Marchbanks, the Huskies will receive guidance from assistant coaches Brent Smith, Chloe Fairchild, Jezreel Mitten, and Hartsook.

Sweet Home opens at Molalla at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 15, and then hosts Madras at 3 p.m. on Friday, March 17.

The entire Husky program fields 35 girls this year, including JV and JV2 teams.

The JV squad, coached by Caytlin Gillespie with assistant Maddie Harris, consists of juniors Natalie Templin and Madison Duncan, sophomores Emily Burks, Alyssa Peterson, Kourtney Hayes, Kenadie King, Kaylee Looney, and Akemi Jimenez, and freshmen Anabelle Morris, Katrina Harris, and Miley Smith.

The JV2 squad, coached by Sandy Brown, is made up of juniors Brooke Byler and Alix Osinga, sophomores Alyssa Cruz, Mariah Bradley, Makenzi Neese and Halie O’Neal, and freshmen Lily Dinsfriend, Elizabeth Dean, Lillian Garwood, Isabella Wagner, Aubri Parker, Madison Sailors, and Kiera Reese.