Kadence Burleson is a really good catcher, maybe even a college-level catcher.
But the junior has not played a game at catcher for the Evergreen softball team this spring. And that fact is a big reason why the Plainsmen are in first place in the 3A Greater St. Helens League.
So how does that work?
“I think that something we’ve struggled with a lot in the past is playing together as a team,” Evergreen coach Carrie Urban said. “So we’ve tackled this ‘we-is-greater-than-me’ strategy this year and really working on what is going to help us be successful as a team as opposed to what is going to help us individually.”
So while Burleson is Evergreen’s best player at catcher, she is also the team’s best player at third base.
Truth be told, she’s probably Evergreen’s best player at lot of positions, but third base is where she can help her team the most.
And there’s a lot of that happening all around field for Evergreen.
“So we have girls who are playing these positions, making the sacrifice here, to do that” Urban said. “And I think that is what really makes the difference for us. We are putting our best player, for us, at every position.”
After a 7-5 win over Camas on Monday, Evergreen is 9-5 overall and 5-1 in the 3A GSHL.
The success this spring at Evergreen was born two seasons ago when a core group of eight players on this year’s team entered the program as freshmen.
“A lot of us were all freshmen (together) on this team,” junior Delaney Bollman said. “So with the fact that we’ve been able play together and work together for the past three years, we’ve grown as a team, as individuals and as a team. And that has helped our game a lot.”
Evergreen’s strength resides in its offense as the Plainsmen are averaging more than eight runs a game this season.
Burleson leads the way with eight home runs and 25 RBI, but Evergreen can produce offense from anywhere in the lineup.
On Monday vs. Camas, Bollman went 3 for 3 with a triple and two RBI, Chloe Shove had two-run home and McKayla White walked three times and scored twice.
“We all have strong bats,” Burleson said. “We all struggle sometimes but every single time someone comes up, I believe that we can get a hit and make something happen.”
And Evergreen’s players are willing to do the small stuff, too.
“We’re doing a lot more sacrifice bunting and a lot of stuff that traditionally the girls have kind of poo-pooed on me about,” Urban said. “And this year we’re learning to do it for the greater of the team. So I think that with the wins they are seeing this is what we need to do.”
And that goes for defense this year, where Urban has put a focus on clean fielding and trying to throw runners out on base.
“We have good pitching, but my pitchers are just tiny,” Urban said. “They don’t throw as hard as some other pitchers. So we’ve focused on doing the small things on defense. …
“And we’re making sure that offensively we are racking up the runs so we can give our defense a little bit of padding. So when our pitchers do get hit, we’ve got some padding to work with.”
Evergreen (5-1) leads the very competitive 3A GSHL, with key games still coming against Prairie (3-1) and Heritage (3-2).
The Plainsmen are already assured of a spot the 3A bi-district tournament in Lacey next month, but they are looking for more.
“It’s really about pushing through and keeping up the good work we’ve been making,” Burleson said. “Trying not to come up with any bumps in the road, continuing do what we’re doing. Because I believe if we keep playing like we’ve been playing, we’re going to make it really far.”
Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at (360) 735-4538, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at @360TMart on Twitter or Instagram