Veterans, strong offense, return to lead Husky softball

Benny Westcott

After a middling finish last season, Sweet Home’s softball team looks to climb in the conference standings as it starts its first fully scheduled slate of games since 2019.

Last spring, the Huskies finished 9-5 overall and 7-5 in the 4A Oregon West Conference (OWC), ending the season at fourth place. Cascade won the conference with a 12-6 overall record, followed by Newport (11-3) and Philomath (8-5).

Their 125 runs scored last season was third in the conference behind Cascade and Stayton.

Sweet Home graduated only two seniors from last year’s team, so while it won’t have to replace many players, it’ll be missing at least two of those two graduates: Shortstop Bailee Hartsook, a First Team All-Conference infielder, and pitcher Savannah Hutchins, who was named to the Second Team.

But the Huskies have reason to be optimistic, with three All-Conference selections returning. Junior Brooke Burke, who played third base last season, was a Second Team infielder. Senior Chloe Fairchild was Honorable Mention as catcher, and senior Maddie Harris was an Honorable Mention utility player. Each had a better-than .340 batting average last season.

“I expect consistency from them at the plate, along with mature leadership,” Head Coach Karyn Hartsook said.

Without their staff ace from last season in Hutchins, the Huskies have promoted their Nos. 2 and 3 in the pitching rotation: Harris and junior Makayal Guthrie. Of the former, Hartsook said, “She does a good job and provides great leadership.” Guthrie “has been putting in the time early on to increase her success ratio in the circle.”

Pitching and defense were team strengths last year, trends the Huskies hope to continue. Despite their fourth-place finish, they allowed the conference’s second-fewest runs at 80 (Newport recorded the best mark at 43).

As the team prepares for competition, Hartsook emphasized how pleased she was to see an entire season of games.

“It’s very exciting to have a full season and a full schedule,” she said. “We have a great opportunity to do some good things with the kids this season.”

And practice has kicked off smoothly.

“In light of the weather we have been able to get outside and do some fundamental work,” Hartsook said.

She believes this year’s squad will rely more on solidarity than star power.

“Sometimes you have a couple kids that stand out. This year, we have a lot of kids that will contribute in a lot of ways,” she said. “We have coachability, good attitudes and work ethic. It will be a team effort.”

She said the team will focus on “accomplishing what we need to do on our side.”

Rounding out the Huskies’ varsity roster are seniors Mykal Johnston and Adaira Sleutel, junior Kelsie Rush, and sophomores Adisen Graber, Abby Olson, Natalie Summers, Riley Watkins and Kaylene Zajic.

The junior varsity team consists of junior Nora Pettner, sophomores Madison Duncan, Madison Ferebee and Natalie Templin, and freshmen Emily Burks, Jocelyn Fairchild, Kourtney Hayes, Akemi Jimenez, Kenadie King, Kaylee Looney, Alyssa Peterson and Kaisha Schoonover.

The Junior Varsity 2 team is made up of junior Keana Perkins, sophomores Brooke Byler, Cadence Makinson, Mia Miller and Alix Osinga, and freshmen Mariah Bradley, Alyssa Cruz, Kenzi Neese, Timber Nobles, Halie Oneal, Marina Torres and Ashton VanVelzer.

Along with Hartsook, the Husky coaching staff includes Bailee Hartsook, Brent Smith, Caytlin Gillespie, and Emily Marchbanks.

Sweet Home opens the season at Molalla at 4:30 p.m. Monday, March 14, followed by a home contest against Elmira at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 15.