Growing Pains: Two full seasons of experience and a state playoff run have junior-heavy Wolverines hungry for more in 2011
By JOSH SUMAN
Bellevue Reporter Staff Writer
March 31, 2011 · Updated 8:58 AM
After a premature ending to their state playoff run in 2010, Heather Tracy and the Bellevue Wolverines softball team are focused on taking the next step in 2011.
Considered a potential league-favorite (along with Juanita) by most around the conference, Bellevue is loaded with experience including seven returning starters and a corps of juniors that have been playing together since Little League. "One of the things that is a huge strength of ours is team chemistry," Tracy said.
While the class of 2012came to Bellevue high on talent, they at times lacked the grizzly mentality and steely reserve that wins softball games in May and June. "When they were freshman, they were such a talented group and I think it has taken them until about now to say, "We're really good and we can do somehing with the talant we have," Tracy said of her six starting juniors. "They've been playing together for a long time and they understand each other."
After starting the year with a shutout win over Newport, the Wolverines took their act across the Cascades for a pair of games against Eastmont and Wenatchee. The trip gave the team a chance to become even closer off the field but offered some valuable lessons on the diamond as well.
After leading for the entire game against 4A Wenatchee, Bellevue surrendered a pair of runs in the bottom half of the seventh before eventually losing by a single run in eleven innings.
During the extra innings, the Wolverines got their first taste of the "international tie-breaker", which is a softball rule where after the eighth inning (or the first extra frame), each team begins their half of the inning with a runner already on second base. "Being in those pressure situations, those are great situations to be in and that is one thing that I've seen as a huge growth is the kids really respoond to that pressure," Tracy said.
Pitcher Emily Fleischman, who struck out 19 batters and hit a two-run homerun against Wenatchee, also talked about the game as an example of the Wolverines' resiliency. "I've definitely learned we're a competiative team and we never give up," Fleischman said.
That attitude will be critical as the season moves along and especially so against fellow KingCo favorite Juanita. The Rebels dropped Bellevue 1-0 in their first meeting of the year and Tracy knows her team is already chomping at the bit for an opportunity to meet Juanita again. "I think they're exited to work and improve and play them again," Tracy said, noting that her team will need to become more consistent at the plate in order to top the Rebels the next go-around.
The lone senior of the group, starting shortstop Lisa Bennett wants to make the most of her final run as a prep with the group she has come to love. "I grew up with all these kids, they mean the absolute world to me," Bennett said. "I'm full of joy to be able to play with these kids again."
Wolverines at a glance
Coach: Heather Tracy, Seventh season
Returning starters: Seven
Impact Newcomers: Megan Pottinger, SO, OF
Crucial Matchups: 4/19 @ Juanita, 4:30pm
From the dugout: Bennett on the potential for 2011: "The potential is amazing, this group is so talented"...Fleischman on her keys to success: "Working hard on conditioning and in the weight room"...on coach Tracy: "She doesn't just teac us about the game of softball, but life in general"...Catcher Katie Savard on the team's mentality: "We try to take it game by game and play by play, so hopefuly that will lead to a great season"