Good pitchers don’t grow on trees. It’s rare to find even one that has the stamina, tenacity, and mental toughness to throw nearly every inning of every game, while also taking batting …
Good pitchers don’t grow on trees. It’s rare to find even one that has the stamina, tenacity, and mental toughness to throw nearly every inning of every game, while also taking batting reps and dominating year-long.
Well, maybe in Southwest Washington, they do grow on trees.
W.F. West’s Kamy Dacus, Tenino’s Emily Baxter, and Pe Ell-Willapa Valley’s Olivia Matlock all fit the definition of a softball workhorse, leading their respective teams into the first normal fastpitch season in two years.
The trio do most, if not all, of the pitching for their squads, and thanks to offseason and summer work, have stayed ready as they brace for a competitive 2022.
“If you don’t go out there to put in work when you’re tired, someone else is going to and they’re going to be better than you,” Baxter said. “If you want to be the best, then you always have to put your best effort out there and have to keep trying and doing everything you can in your off-time.”
Dacus and Matlock have the exact same philosophy.
All three grew up playing the game, and with different sets of expectations, but all looking to make a run at state this season, the pressure is always on in the circle, one game, and one pitch at a time.
In Chehalis, Dacus leads a veteran crew of Bearcats that has its eyes set on a deep state run. After two straight seasons cut short or shortened by COVID-19, Dacus and her gaudy numbers are primed for a big year with real stakes.
“It’s very exciting to have another opportunity at state because we’ve only had one as a senior class,” she said. “I’m still taking it one pitch at a time and controlling the things I can control, and not the things I can’t.”
Dacus threw all but three innings in 16 games last season, with a 0.69 ERA, a 0.64 WHIP, 185 strikeouts, with just 55 hits and 10 walks. There wasn’t much dropoff at the plate either, batting .500 with six home run blasts and 28 runs batted in.
With his expectations this season, Dacus is just looking forward to one last ride with a senior group that has played together since they were little.
“We’ve talked about trying not to be too cocky about it and just taking it one game at a time and not thinking we’re the best out there,” Dacus said. “I’m excited to play with my team again and get to play for a state title.”
Over in the Stone City, Baxter leads a scrappy Beavers squad in the pitchers circle, where she struck out 208 batters last season in 155 innings.
One of the most unflappable pitchers in the area, Baxter is hoping to lead Tenino to the state tournament for the first time since 2004, and just the third time in program history.
“One of our goals is trying to make it to state this year and make a run,” she said. “So we can leave a legacy behind all of us for other teams to look forward to when they get there.”
Baxter pitched flame from the circle, but also mashed two homers and drove in 12 runs with seven doubles last spring for the Beavs. With a strong supporting cast, Baxter squad is hoping to make noise in the 1A Evergreen League.
“Actually being able to be on the field with this team, all the seniors are all the kids I have played with since I was young,” Baxter said. “It’s really nice that we have the original team out there and we get to get back out there and play what we know and how we know how to play.
Two years ago, during Matlock’s freshman season, the Titans captured a district championship and came up just short in the state championship game the last time a state tournament was held.
With state stakes returning this year, the goal for Matlock and crew is clear.
“I’m hoping that we can do that again, but I want to win both this year, not just one,” she said.
PWV went 15-1 last year, running the regular season schedule before coming up just short in the district championship during the spring, led by Matlock’s 1.08 ERA and 109 strikeouts. At the plate she was just as devastating, with a .633 batting average, 33 RBI, and an area-best eight home runs.
With an infield made up entirely of seniors, the Titans are also poised for yet another strong year.
“I think we’ll be really good and it’ll be really exciting this year,” Matlock said. “It’s been fun to grow up with them throughout the years and play softball with them.
“I feel super excited, we have lots of older players, we have some younger players who have been really beneficial for us. I’m excited to see everyone develop.”
While all three pitchers play in different leagues and classifications, all boast one of the best arms in the entire state, and aren’t half-bad with a bat in their hands either. Each has different expectations and goals for this season, but thanks to offseason workouts and drills, they’ve stayed ready as softball season gets ramped up this spring.
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