Taking over for a league MVP is one of the toughest tasks for a high school athlete to tackle.
But no one was more qualified than Kamryn Coleman to fill the shoes of the Walla Walla High School softball team’s former ace pitcher, Brandi Schoessler — the 2016 Mid-Columbia Conference Co-Player of the Year, now at Walla Walla Community College.
Coleman rose to that challenge by posting a 22-3 record and 1.29 ERA over 157 innings this season, earning her the nod as the Tri-City Herald’s 2017 All-Area Softball Player of the Year.
“A lot of the weight was on me, whether we were going to win or lose games,” said Coleman, a junior. “That’s kind of overwhelming, especially when you’re playing doubleheaders. But that’s when you just have to focus on one game, one inning, one pitch at a time. That’s what I did throughout the season.”
Walla Walla was the only team in the top half of the MCC that almost exclusively used just one pitcher — Coleman pitched in all 27 games she played this season, starting all but two of them — a situation Coleman had to adapt to on the fly since she had never encountered it on one of her youth or travel teams.
The lack of depth in the circle didn’t seem to hold back the Blue Devils (23-5, 12-2 MCC) as they won the MCC title with a doubleheader sweep over Richland on the final day of the regular season, claimed a regional title with a 5-3 win over University, and went 3-2 at the state tournament.
“Everything starts in the circle,” Coleman said. “I think I really learned that this year. It’s extremely important for me to do my job, and I’m going to have to do the same next year.”
As Coleman’s confidence and ability grew throughout the season, so too did her ability to serve as a team leader, Wa-Hi coach Arch McHie said.
“She’s starting to own and realize just how good she is, and I think that’s a maturity thing,” said McHie, the All-Area Coach of the Year. “And then that confidence just spreads to the rest of the team. There were teams she would say, ‘OK, everybody, just jump on my back, here we go.’ And then there were times she didn’t have to worry about that.
“Kam’s not a big ‘rah-rah’ kid, but when she speaks, teammates listen.”
One of the keys to Coleman’s dominance on the mound and the team’s overall success this season, McHie said, was the rapport between the Blue Devils’ star pitcher and her battery-mate, junior Lauren Hoe, the All-Area first-team catcher. Coleman and Hoe have played together since youth ball, and their familiarity is evident on the diamond.
“They have that uncanny sixth sense when they’re pitching and catching together that is really fun as a coach to watch,” he said. “They do have their own strange ways of communicating with each other that I just have to shake my head and roll my eyes, but it works for them. And their teammates feed off of that.
“As a coach, it’s really fun to watch Lauren give out her sign, then you watch the infielders make their adjustments because they know what pitch is coming. I think that’s indicative of kids that trust one another and work well together.”
Despite graduating influential seniors Josie Sweet (first-team All-Area outfielder), Emma Sweet (second-team second baseman) and Tara Krivoshein (second-team utility player), Walla Walla looks ready to reload for next season. Hoe’s twin sister Faith (first-team shortstop) and third baseman Meghan Yenney also started as juniors on this year’s team, and sophomore Alexis Bareras (honorable mention outfielder) will lead the charge of up-and-coming Blue Devils as the team looks to make it back onto the state podium.
“We still have a big core of our group that’s staying that was a big part of our success,” Coleman said. “I think we’ll be set for next year.”
Coleman is committed to play for Central Arkansas after she graduates.
Despite an injury to her throwing arm that hindered her effectiveness in the circle, Richland junior Brandi Andrews still had a monster season at the plate. She batted .571, drove in 56 runs while scoring 31 times herself, and slugged 15 home runs in 28 games to earn her a spot as the first-team designated hitter and an honorable mention nod at pitcher.
With Richland going 21-7 and reaching the state tournament, several other Bombers also earned spots on the All-Area team: freshman Kaylie Northrop (first-team pitcher), junior Miranda Camacho (first-team second baseman), freshman Addison Pettit (second-team first baseman) and sophomore Sydney Perryman (second-team third baseman).
Junior catcher Maddy Thomas rewrote DeSales’ record book this season, batting .782 with 70 RBIs, 12 doubles, eight triples and a whopping 23 home runs for the Irish, who went 3-2 at the 2B state tournament. She earned the first-team utility player spot to go along with her EWAC Player of the Year accolade, and teammate Kaylee Brown, who went 22-3 and threw three no-hitters this season, was named a second-team pitcher.
2017 TRI-CITY HERALD ALL-AREA SOFTBALL TEAM
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Kamryn Coleman, jr., Walla Walla
COACH OF THE YEAR: Arch McHie, Walla Walla
FIRST TEAM: P Kamryn Coleman, jr., Walla Walla; P Kaylie Northrop, fr., Richland; P Andria Skeels, jr., Kamiakin; C Lauren Hoe, jr., Walla Walla; 1B Annalisa McKinney, so., Chiawana; 2B Miranda Camacho, jr., Richland; 3B Bailie Bunger, so., Chiawana; SS Faith Hoe, jr., Walla Walla; OF AyJay Mulholland, sr., Kamiakin; OF Sam Cissne; OF Josie Sweet, sr., Walla Walla; DH Brandi Andrews, jr., Richland; U Maddy Thomas, jr., DeSales.
SECOND TEAM: P Mailie Bishop, so., Chiawana; P Dominique Martinez, sr., Othello; P Kaylee Brown, sr., DeSales; C Morgan Hirai, so., Chiawana; 1B Addison Pettit, fr., Richland; 2B Emma Sweet, sr., Walla Walla; 3B Sydney Perryman, so., Richland; SS Katie Steele, jr., Liberty Christian; OF Melody Bush, sr., Liberty Christian; OF Lexi Brown, so., Kamiakin; OF Niki Velazquez, sr., Othello; DH Mailie Bishop, so., Chiawana; U Tara Krivoshein, sr., Walla Walla.
HONORABLE MENTION: P Brandi Andrews, jr., Richland; P Paris Orchard, so., College Place; C Marivel Macias, sr., Kennewick; C Mariah DeLeon, sr., Othello; 1B Cayleen Garza, sr., Othello; 2B Lynsie Miracle so., Kamiakin; 3B Gabby Turner, jr., Hanford; SS Ashley Stewart, so., Hanford; SS Macy Christianson, jr., Kamiakin; SS Teisha Payne, jr., College Place; OF Alexis Barreras, so., Walla Walla; OF Haley Coleman, jr., Hanford; U Mya Moore, so., Kamiakin; DH Andria Skeels, jr., Kamiakin.