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.