Loaded: The Camas Papermakers have two quality pitchers (Harli Hubbard and Katie Schroeder). They return the All-Region player of the year (Amee Aarhus). Oh, and they had new talent move into town. Camas reached the Class 3A state tournament last year. Now a 4A program, the Papermakers hope to make it to state this year at the biggest classification in the state.
Also moving up: Ridgefield moved from 1A to 2A, but the Spudders should not be intimidated. They have Shannon Boyle in the pitching circle, which means they likely will be in every game.
Moving down, but possibly going to the top: The Woodland Beavers went from 2A to 1A this year. In softball, that means they are automatically a contender for a state championship. Makayla Lefever has been pitching great the first weeks of the season, including quality wins over 4A and 3A competition. Emily Tesdale and Emma Pilkington, meanwhile, provide bats and leadership. The three of them, now seniors, were part of Woodland’s state championship team as freshmen.
Staying put: The Prairie Falcons did not change leagues. They remain a solid program in the 3A Greater St. Helens League. Taylor Bussey seems to crush the ball at every plate appearance. Another team that remains in the league is Mountain View. The Thunder stunned everyone but themselves last year by making it to state with two seniors. Our guess if the Thunder believe they can make another long run this year.
Name to remember? Columbia River’s Teaghan Cowles has been nothing short of amazing in her first couple weeks of high school softball. A freshman, she can hit for power. Or, if she just gets on first base, it’s almost as good as a triple. So fast, she is just about automatic with steals.
Remember us: The Skyview Storm made it to the Class 4A state semifinals in 2011. Then they failed to make state last year. So, yeah, they are on a mission to return to the sweet 16 in Washington.
Speed was such a big part of her game.
Skyview's Emily Dobbin could chase down a ball hit into the gap from her center field position.
She could get from first to third in a blink when running the bases, always a threat to score.
She was more than a speedster, though. She knew the game, understood how to run the bases, to cut the corners just right. She was smooth. Dobbin figured out the angles on defense, too, allowing her to get to the ball faster.
Two years ago, she was a blur for the Storm, helping them reach the Class 4A state softball semifinals.
Last year as the season began, Emily Dobbin, with her mix of natural talent and intelligence, needed a scooter just to get around school.
The blur turned into blah, and Dobbin had a difficult time dealing with her first major injury.
"I had done three sports my whole life. Then I just stopped. I got really, really, really down," Dobbin said. "I got depressed. I didn't know how to cope because sports was my whole life."
Dobbin broke a bone in her left foot just days after her freshman softball season. No more softball that summer, but she hoped to return by the fall for soccer season.
She was cleared to play, but she said her foot never felt comfortable.
"When you come back, that's the most frustrating because you're not the same player," Dobbin said. "I was always go, go, go, go, go. Then I was forced to stop. Speed is my biggest attribute. Not being as speedy as I used to be was really frustrating."
Only, it was about to get more frustrating.
Dobbin returned to soccer by the end of September. Was it too soon? Or just bad luck? She does not know. Regardless, she broke her foot again in October. In the same place.
Her soccer season was done, and basketball would be a no-go, as well. She lettered in those sports as a freshman.
Then she learned she would miss out on softball — her main sport.
A specialist recommended surgery in January. Her doctor took a piece of her heel and screwed it on the fifth metatarsal bone, on the outside of her foot.
"I have a little bionic foot now," Dobbin says with a smile.
She was not smiling much last spring, though.
"When you're injured, you're watching other people in your spot," she said. "That's the hardest part because I wanted to be out there so bad."
After years of soccer, basketball, softball, Dobbin experienced a school year with barely any time in competition.
"I learned a lot about myself. There are so many other things besides your little bubble," she said.
Plus, she was forced to realize just how important a foot is to an athlete. Heck, to anybody.
"Taking a shower turned into one of my biggest challenges," she said.
Dobbin remained with her softball team, hanging out at practices and games. She used her knee scooter to keep her foot out of harm's way as her teammates took their cuts in the batting cage.
"That scooter was my best friend," she said. "Crutches got really old."
She returned to softball in the summer, and even played soccer for the Storm as she started her junior year of high school.
"After the surgery, everything was awesome," Dobbin said. "I wish they would have given me surgery the first time. My injury time would have been cut in half."
Skyview coach Kim Anthony saw just about every game of Dobbin's freshman year, even though Anthony was not the coach then.
"I don't see a difference," Anthony said. "I don't think she has slowed down at all."
The coach also appreciates Dobbin's mental approach to the game.
"She brings leadership. She knows the game. She takes it pretty seriously," Anthony said. "She sets the table pretty nicely."
College coaches have noticed Dobbin, too.
Last summer, Dobbin caught the eye of a coach at Kent State University in Ohio. Dobbin received an offer, and earlier this year she accepted.
With that out of the way, she wants to help Skyview back to the state tournament -- this season and next year, too. Dobbin wants to make first-team all-league. She wants to show that she is truly back.
"I feel like I have to prove myself," she said. "I had that first season, and then I faded off."
Dobbin is known as an outfielder, but she has pitched a little for the Storm this season. Last week, she played first base for the first time, filling in for an absent teammate.
After what she endured last year, just being on the field — anywhere on the field — is just fine for Dobbin.
Her speed is back. The foot is 100 percent healthy.
And Emily Dobbin is no longer frustrated. Just sincerely happy to be back to where she always felt she belonged.