Monday, April 12, 2021
April 12, 2021

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Martinez: Heritage slowpitch relishes success

High school sports

By , Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published:

The Heritage slowpitch softball is having the kind of season that would make others green with envy.

And that’s not something many Timberwolf teams could say over the years.

The last Heritage team to advance to a state tournament was in baseball in 2013. Before that, it was the 2010 fastpitch softball team that reached the 4A state championship game.

Since 2014, even making it to the bi-district portion of the postseason has been a rarity for Heritage teams.

And even though there won’t be a postseason outside of league play this year, that still didn’t know any of the luster off the Timberwolves’ 8-0 run through the regular season of the 4A/3A Greater St. Helens League in slowpitch.

“Heritage softball has been down for a while now,” said Lacey Olesen, a second-year coach of both softball programs at Heritage. “It’s been my goal is lift it up again, try to get kids excited to be part of this program instead transferring out to another school.”

In an odd way, the pandemic may have played a role in the Timberwovles’ success this season.

In her first season at Heritage, Olesen said only six slowpitch players turned out for the fastpitch team in the spring. This year, the coach expects 14 of the 15 players on the slowpitch roster to play fastpitch.

“The thing I like about slowpitch is it slows the game down and allows players to see what they can do on the field,” Olesen said. “I have one player who hadn’t played softball since grade school. But after playing slowpitch this season, she’s ready to give fastpitch a try.”

Olsen said the ability to lure more fastpitch players to come out for slowpitch was easier this season because players were itching to get out and play anything of year without prep sports.

They discovered what senior team captain Emma Sharp learned about slowpitch in her freshman year.

“I’m on three softball teams – slowpitch, fastpitch and then a summer tournament team,” Sharp said. “I played slowpitch because I wanted to stay in-season, stay warm and keep active. Even though the pitching is different … it really helps just keeps you on your toes all year.”

Since going 8-0 in the regular season, the Timberwolves have dropped two of three games – both to Union – in the modified league playoff portion of the schedule. Heritage finishes its season at home Wednesday against Kelso.

But those two losses could not wipe out the significance of Heritage’s 6-5 win over Union on March 17.

“Not only did we beat Union – which was huge – it allowed us finish the regular season undefeated,” Olesen said. “We don’t have the talent that Union has. But we have a bunch of girls who have heart and play with a lot of energy.”

Having fun is also part of Timberwolves’ recipe to success.

“I’m just out here having fun,” Sharp said. “I goof off in the field, trying to cheer everyone on by dancing and goofing. And it works for the most part. I used to be a player who would get down on myself. But if you’re upbeat and cheering and uplifting, it makes difference on how you play.”

Heritage’s school colors used to be purple, silver and green, following a tradition of high schools in Evergreen Public Schools to have green in their color scheme.

When Union opened in 2007, the Titans did not have green in their color scheme. Since then, the Timberwolves have removed green from their colors.

But principal Derek Garrison told Olesen that Heritage teams that can have a successful season – and beat Union — can have the “green treatment” in their uniforms.

“Next season, we’ll add a little green to our uniforms,” Olesen said. “Just a little reminder of what we were able to do this season.”

Sharp hopes what the Timberwolves have done this season will lead to a greener future at Heritage.

“The fact that most of these girls on this team are going on to play fastpitch, we’ve already bonded together,” she said. “We’ve got that emotional link of being a team. … And I’m hoping that in the years to come – because softball at Heritage has really been known – that we become more known, and we get more girls to come out for the team.”

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