The Pasco High School softball team, which has struggled in the standings the past few seasons, is ready to wipe the slate clean.
At the head of the effort is new coach JaiLynn Stoker. She takes over from Kim Palmer, who coached the Bulldogs for six seasons.
“I don’t want to know about last year,” Stoker said. “I want to focus on the girls that I have, their strengths and what they need to focus on when it comes to softball.”
Stoker, a 1996 Connell High School graduate, won two state softball titles as a second baseman with the Eagles. She spent the past 11 years coaching seventh-grade softball at Ochoa Middle School.
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Stoker’s new team will open the season facing three teams in three days, starting Thursday against Davis at TRAC.
Pasco has one senior — catcher Adriana McKinney — and seven juniors. The rest of the Bulldogs are freshmen and sophomores.
“It’s a work in progress,” Stoker said. “I think the ones from the old guard, they’re hesitant. The younger ones especially are coming around, the ones that don’t necessarily have that background. They’re working hard in practice. They’re trying to figure each other out. A lot of them haven’t played together, so they’re working on that chemistry dynamic. They’re working on trusting each other.”
CHANGE IN WALLA WALLA: Longtime Walla Walla assistant Arch McHie is heading up the Blue Devil program this year.
McHie was an assistant to Jerry Humphreys when the Blue Devils won the 2011 Class 4A state championship in Spokane and took second in 2012.
McHie replaces Kate Keyes, a former Wa-Hi player who coached the Blue Devils from 2013-15. Walla Walla finished second at state in 2014 and won last spring’s district and regional titles to get back to Spokane.
It’s highly likely that the Blue Devils, who opened the 2016 season Tuesday with a 21-1 victory over Pullman, will be among this year’s state contenders. Senior Brandi Schoessler and sophomores Lauren Hoe, Faith Hoe and Kamryn Coleman are returning all-leaguers.
“We are still pretty young with only three seniors,” McHie said. “A year of maturity and knowing what to expect makes a big difference. Our goals are pretty simple and straightforward — play hard, play with intensity and good things will happen.”
RICHLAND VARSITY MIXER: Mid-Columbia Conference teams Richland, Hanford, Kennewick, Walla Walla, Kamiakin, Southridge and Chiawana will participate in Saturday’s mixer at Columbia Playfield.
Connell and Othello will be back at the annual mixer along with Lake Washington, Central Valley, Mead, Battle Ground and Idaho teams Lake City, Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls.
The game schedule is as follows:
10 a.m.: Lake Washington vs. Richland; Mead vs. Hanford; Connell vs. Kennewick; Othello vs. Walla Walla.
Noon: Lake Washington vs. Walla Walla; Mead vs. Kamiakin; Battle Ground vs. Hanford; Othello vs. Southridge.
2 p.m.: Lake City vs. Chiawana; Post Falls vs. Kennewick; Battle Ground vs. Coeur d’Alene; Central Valley vs. Connell.
4 p.m.: Lake City vs. Richland; Post Falls vs. Chiawana; Southridge vs. Coeur d’Alene; Central Valley vs. Kamiakin.