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Saturday, December 2, 2023
Dec. 2, 2023

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2A GSHL Softball: Woodland, Ridgefield rivalry has state title flavor

Ridgefield and Woodland bring back loaded rosters and are set to go at it for the top spot in league — and state — once more.

By , Columbian Staff Writer
2 Photos
Ridgefield’s Kaia Oliver, left, and Woodland’s Olivia Grey have both signed to play NCAA Division-I softball.
Ridgefield’s Kaia Oliver, left, and Woodland’s Olivia Grey have both signed to play NCAA Division-I softball. Files/The Columbian Photo Gallery

Last year, the 2A Greater St. Helens league came down to a the battle for the top spot between Woodland and Ridgefield. Both possessed the firepower of two of the top teams in the area, regardless of classification. Both made deep runs in the state tournament. Woodland won the state title.

New year. Same story.

“We view them as our biggest competition,” Woodland coach Tom Christensen said. “We talk about it. We’re excited (to play them).”

Last season, the teams finished locked atop the league standings, as they were each other’s only league loss in a 1-1 series split.

But Woodland ended the season with the ultimate goal: a first place state trophy. Ridgefield finished fifth.

“In the back of the girls’ minds, yes, we have some unfinished business, and Woodland is in that path,” Ridgefield coach Dusty Anchors said. “What I’m trying to get the girls to step back and realize that it’s one game at a time, one pitch at a time. It’s a fine line.”

The Spudders and the Beavers each return the majority of their starting lineups, and both sides have each other circled on the calendar.

Last year’s series between the teams featured two thrilling bouts. Woodland took the first, a pitching duel, 2-0, then Ridgefield nabbed the second 4-3 in extras.

Ridgefield pitcher Kaia Oliver, a Syracuse signee, returns along with five other all-league selections from a team that reached the state quarterfinals, highlighted by first team honorees Sarah Jenkins, Kekai Schultz and Emma Jenkins.

Anchors acknowledged the anticipated battle with Woodland atop the league standings, but has urged his team not to get too caught up on the long-term.

Woodland field all but two players from last year’s state title-winning team, including four all-league selections, highlighted by All-Region Player of the Year Olivia Grey, a senior pitcher. First team selection Kaily Christensen returns along with second-teamers Chloe Eddy and Kelly Sweyer — all of whom were instrumental in the Beavers’ title run.

Woodland will replace two starting outfielders, but Christensen is confident in the players in line.

He’s also made an effort to take the pressure of repeating as state champs off of his team, citing the expectation of repeated as a narrow view of success.

“We’re allowed to have a bad day,” Christensen said. “It’s OK. We talk a lot about pressure, living up to expectations. I try to calm them.”

But Woodland certainly has the talent to get there. As do the Spudders.

And the two pitchers, Oliver and Grey, are set to dazzle one season more.

Beyond the top two teams, the league appears fairly wide open. There was just one senior on the first all-league team, so expect a talent-laden league. Hockinson returns three all-league selections coming off an appearance at districts.

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Columbian Staff Writer