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Aug. 16, 2022

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‘Still a hint of Dusty’ in Ridgefield softball

Late coach’s daughter Kelsey now leading team

By , Columbian sports reporter
2 Photos
Ridgefield seniors Mia Tomillo, left, is a key piece for the Spudders on the softball field.
Ridgefield seniors Mia Tomillo, left, is a key piece for the Spudders on the softball field. (Photos by Joshua Hart/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Ridgefield softball may be entering a new era with a new coach and fresh faces after being one of the area’s most consistently strong squads the past three seasons, but the expectations haven’t changed.

What last year’s senior class, which ended with a third-place state trophy — the team’s highest finish since 2004 — left behind is a program with a higher bar than ever before. While the Jenkins (Sarah and Emma) and Oliver (Kaia and Karli) sisters are irreplaceable, the Spudders were excited to begin their 2020 campaign before spring sports were put on ice.

“We want to go out and show everybody what we got,” senior first baseman Hailee Gruber said. “Losing those five senior girls is hard on the team, but we wanted to go and show we’re still just as good and have even more potential.”

Heading the transitional time for the Spudders is first-year coach Kelsey Anchors. The surname is a familiar one in Ridgefield. Former coach Dusty Anchors, who led the team for three years, died in May after a battle with heart disease. Kelsey is the youngest of his four daughters.

“Ultimately his goal was for me to coach at Ridgefield,” Kelsey Anchors said. “I want to pass on that legacy while still making the team and program my own.”

Kelsey Anchors differs from her dad in many ways — notably, Kelsey was not a fan of the uniform combinations, senior Mia Tomillo said with a laugh.

The similarities, though, have helped ease the transition for the players after a difficult year coping with the death of the beloved coach.

“There’s still a hint of Dusty Anchors in there,” Kelsey says.

Because of the adversity the Spudders faced last year, they are perhaps uniquely suited to handle the current hiatus from sports with similar grace.

“I definitely think that shaped us a lot,” Gruber said. “We all had to go through a lot last year and keep our heads in the game. It helped us see what’s important and helped us mature a lot.”

The team is extremely tight-knit as a result and still communicate through a group chat on a daily basis as schools are shuttered due to coronavirus concerns.

“Everything we dealt with last year gave us a totally different connection with each other,” said Tomillo, who will be the team’s starting pitcher should the season return. “Having Kelsey, his daughter, is awesome too because she understands what we went through.”

A former collegiate softball player at Oklahoma State, Kelsey Anchors is described as “intense” and “competitive” by her players. Tomillo likened the practices to club training. “It was an adjustment for some girls,” said Tomillo.

But players also describe Anchors as “relatable” and “amazing.”

For both Gruber and Tomillo, it’s their first female head softball coach in their playing careers.

“You just have that different level you can relate on,” Gruber said. “I love having her as a coach.”

Columbian sports reporter

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