TOLEDO — The great faucet in the sky continues to fill many cups until the runneth over, or at least until there’s ripples on still water all over the field and an old fashioned rainout ensues.

That predictable twist in the plot of springtime sports has left numerous teams in the lurch as they wait for the atmospheric river to run dry and improve their human condition. In the meantime we’ll continue to work through a stack of proprietary scouting reports procured from preseason jamborees around the area.

Last weekend in the South Lewis County empire of Toledo, softball teams from Naselle and Toutle Lake joined the Riverhawks for a series of preseason friendlies in the big valley between the snow blanketed peaks of Rainier and St. Helens. For those in attendance, though, blankets were not necessary for those in attendance thanks to a generous helping of the meteorological phenomenon more commonly known in ore tropical locales as “a sunny day.”

TOLEDO RIVERHAWKS (2B)There’s a couple of familiar faces in the Toledo dugout this season but both of them are brand new to the softball diamond. Former baseball coach Jeff Davis has taken over as skipper for the Riverhawks and he’s got former Toledo-Winlock United soccer coach Horst Malunat onboard as his assistant. As was pointed out on Saturday, due to his soccer background Malunat is entirely unfamiliar with rainouts but now that he’s traded the world’s game for America’s pastime for a season, he’s due to get an advanced degree in weather related delays and reschedules.

During Toledo’s preliminary performance, though, the bats were the only thing warmer than the sun splintered wooden bleachers.

Toledo surrendered six runs to Toutle Lake in the first inning of their opener on the day, but that sink hole of a start proved to be the perfect opportunity for the Riverhawks to show their new skipper that they know how to weather a storm. To wit, the home team rallied to match the Fighting Ducks with six runs of their own in the bottom half of the first frame.

“I was talking to the players and you know they got down six to nothing, and jamboree or no jamboree it’s tough and really tells me a lot early on about the character of these kids that they were like, ‘Hey, we’re fine. We’ve got this,’” Davis said.

That rally was capped like the summits of the Cascade mountain range in the bottom of the third and final inning. Quyn Norberg got the final charge going with a leadoff single and advanced to second on base hit by Greenlee Clark. Norberg then stole third base and came home to plate the walk-off score on a dribbler to third base off the bat of Bethany Bowen, sliding between the legs of Toutle Lake’s catcher before the ball could be shuttled back to the dish.

That ability to put together productive at bats is something that Davis noticed about his roster right away. He tabbed Brynn Williams, Mialeigh Jurica, Avery Robins, Abbie Marcil, Bowen and Norberg as the top hitters on the team but promised tough outs up and down the order.

“One through nine we’ve got people who return and have hit the ball so I like our lineup wherever we’re at,” Davis said. “I think we’re going to hit the ball pretty good.”

Defensively the Riverhawks will turn the ball over to Bowen and Robins in the circle in their effort to tally 21 outs as quickly as possible. Bowen handled the pitching duties against Toutle Lake on Saturday and Robins got the start against Naselle.

“It’s a one-two punch,” Davis said. “We just have to figure out who the one and the two are, but it will be nice to have an option.”

No matter who’s slinging the neon sphere the Riverhawks will be set behind home plate with junior Abbie Marcil donning the tools of ignorance once again. A natural born competitor who plays a bruising brand of ball no matter which sport it is, Marcil will be counted on to anchor the defense.

“Abbie is something special. She’s a catcher that only comes along once in a while and I’m glad she’s on our team,” Davis said. “She definitely knows what she’s doing back there. She’s got a cannon for an arm and she’s been around long enough that she knows how to help the pitcher.”

Looking around the Central 2B League softball landscape for the first time Davis, like so many of his peers, tabbed Adna as the top team to watch out for.

“Adna is the team up there that I think everyone is trying to knock down. They were good last year and they’re going to be good again,” Davis said. “We’ll be right in there. Toutle’s a good team. Onalaska and Rainier, I think those are the teams near the middle in our league.”

If you’ve ever seen the ten-foot tall demon eyed Donald Duck adorned to the side of the brick façade at Toutle Lake High school then you know they don’t call them the Fighting Ducks for nothing. This season the girls from way out Spirit Lake Highway are determined to prove that there’s substance behind the name.

With a full fledged playoff scenario in play this season Toutle Lake seems to be extra incentivized to put their best foot forward, even if it is of the webbed variety.

“We are ready to go the distance> We are going to fight and as we can see right here the plate was an absolute battle,” Toutle Lake coach Cortney Byman said. “We’ve got some speed to deal with. We’ve got aggressive base running. These girls are ready to battle. Coach Lake and I, we’re ready to battle, and these girls are going to bring it.”

The Ducks put a hurting on Toledo in the top half of the first inning of their contest with six runs in their inaugural turn at the bat in 2022. That showing filled the Ducks’ skipper with a surface tension of hope like a meniscus arching beyond the brim

“We’ve got a lot of new players in new spots and for us it’s a time to see how our bats are going to rattle. How’s our pitching and our catching going to mesh. Jamborees are a great time for that,” Byman said. “I’m extremely happy and I’m extremely pleased, especially at the plate. They rocked it. Everybody came in clutch. You always want that one person but it was everybody today.”

The Ducks will have plenty of defensive pieces to plug in, too, even if it means moving their pieces around more than usual.

“We’ve got a well-rounded field but we’ve got to move people to positions that they haven’t played,” Byman said.

Makinnley Byman will be called upon to help lockdown shortstop while shifting to the outfield and pitching at times, too. Kennedy Lake will be tasked with duties at second and third base, while Jordyn Grabenhorst runs it down in center field. Makinnley Byman and Jasmine Smith will also toggle back and forth in the circle for the Ducs, with Smith set to be the top Duck on the slab.

“We’ve got a great lineup for pitching,” Coach Byman said. “She’s our long haul. She’s been great for all these years and I don’t want to fix something that isn’t broke.”

1B/2B Softball: Area teams set a course for long lost postseason

In order to get to where they want to be, though, Toutle Lake will have to take out the best of the rest along the way. After the excitement of the preseason jamboree they’ve got Toledo circled on the calendar and are already anticipating a tough Ocosta team to show up in the district tournament. But in order to take top honors in the C2BL, the Ducks will have to figure out a way to best the mighty Pirates.

“Adna’s always got a great lineup. They’ve got a great bench. Definitely somebody that we need to come prepared (for) and compete,” Byman said.

The Chinooks will have new handwriting on their lineup cards this season with Brad Rinard now calling the shots for the girls in orange and black. Kalama was not in Cheese Town on Saturday but instead stopped off in Kelso for a set of jamboree contests against the junior varsity team from R.A. Long (2A) and Kelso (3A) at Tam O’Shanter Park.

With a later start to their contests the Chinooks did not enjoy as much sunshine as their 2B peers but they got their work in nonetheless. After a fortnight of practices up on the hill it was a useful change of pace for a Kalama team that’s going to need some time to adjust to the pace of play at the varsity level.

“I’ve seen great potential out of the girls,” Rinard said, noting that he’s coached several of the Chinooks previously during their time on the rec league fields.

“We have a young team this year. A young squad and I’m excited to see them play,” he added. “Some of the younger ones that are first year on the high school team are learning as they go but that’s what’s so exciting.”

Depth will be an asset for the Chinooks on the slab this season with five pitchers slated for game time action.

“I’ve got Haylee Harvill, Tabitha Gish, Addie Davenport, Delaney Rinard and Maleah Davis,” Coach Rinard said. “We’ve got a pretty strong pitching squad.”

Coach Rinard noted that he’ll be leaning early and often on junior Grace Adams, along with Jessica Meyer and Gish. But the Chinooks have at least one more piece for opposing teams to worry about; she’ll be the one still wearing a mask, albeit one with metal cross bars.

“Keep an eye on Lahna Moon, she’s our catcher,” Coach Rinard said.

The Comets aren’t mincing words when it comes to their objectives this season. It’s time to bring home a trophy, or bust. That’s the sort of audacious mission statement that a team cooks up when they haven’t had an opportunity to play for anything other than pride, if at all, in 34 long strange months.

“Our goal is definitely to go to State. It’s a possibility to bring home some hardware,” Naselle coach Bekkah Wirkkala said. “This sport has been hurt more than ever because of COVID… these girls haven’t had State since 2019.”

Moreover, there’s more than several Comets who didn’t even have a high school locker the last time there was a normal season on the diamond. A handful of them still don’t.

“I’ve got five eighth graders and four of them will definitely be contributing this year,” Wirkkala said.

That trial by fire got off to a quick start on Saturday when the Comets were forced to plug in a pair of 8th graders in place of two absent upperclassmen with Peyton Dalton and Delaney Kragerud both missing in action. Dalton, Naselle’s starting shortstop who catches and plays first base, too, is suffering from a broken finger and trying to find a way back to the field as quickly as possible. Currently, she is considering every option on the table short of cutting the little finger off entirely.

“I feel like we held her own with the team that I had there,” Wirkkala said. “Our girls finally started hitting.”

With injuries and inexperience in play already the Comets are going to spend the early part of the season moving players around until they find the perfect alchemy.

Mia Watson, a lefty swinging senior will patrol center field for Naselle and Hailey Lopez, another senior, will move between second base, third base and the outfield. Junior Lauren Katyryniuk looks like a lock to hold down first base while junior Brynn Tarabochia appears poised to handle the Big Dippers’ worth of work in the circle where she’ll be able to flash her devastating changeup and overpowering fastball.

“What’s really great is we teach our players that, yes, you might specialize in one or two positions but you’ve got to know how to play everywhere,” Wirkkala said. “Right and left field are kind of up for grabs right now with Payton out.”

The Comets will be able to sharpen their skills during league play, especially when they face off with the Vikings from dam country.

“Mossyrock and us were the two teams that were the strongest in our league and district the last two years,” Wirkkala said.

She also gave a nod to Quilcene and Wishkah as dark horses to kick up some dust come district tournament time.

“Last year we didn’t have a hole on the team and we would have definitely brought home hardware,” Wirkkala said. “This year I would say it’s probably the same with Mossyrock and ourselves in the league.”

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