The Prairie High School girls softball team spent last week preparing for its first game against Camas as the athletes put their skills to the test at practice.
Coach Mariah Dawson feels optimistic about her team, which features both new and returning players.
“The practices have been really good. We’ve been working hard,” said Dawson. “We have seven underclassmen, so it’s been a lot of getting used to how I teach and how quick of a pace I do, but it’s been going really well.”
Despite the differences in experience across players, Dawson said the team has “bonded really well.” The freshmen look up to the older players on the team.
“We have a few freshmen that are going to fill some big shoes,” she said.
One freshman she sees potential in is Ashley Porter, who is a running shortstop. Dawson describes Porter as “phenomenal” and a “gifted player.” There’s also Payton Blunt, who will play first and third base, according to Dawson.
Dawson highlighted some star players who are returning this season. One example is Alysia Fraly, who is a senior third baseman, Pravina Blunk, who is a senior centerfielder, sophomore pitcher Jade Hayslip, and sophomore Rylee Wall, who is a pitcher and second baseman.
“Fraly has been a third baseman for me since her freshman year,” said Dawson. “She’s also been a top-10 third baseman for the state of Washington for the past three years. She usually leads our team in home runs in batting average. She’s been in all-league since freshman year as well.”
As for Blunk, Dawson said she was recently admitted into Edmonds College.
“She’s super quick, she hits the ball well from the left side, and she’s one of the best centerfielders I’ve ever had,” Dawson said.
Hayslip pitched a majority of the games last year and did a “pretty good job in the circle,” according to Dawson. Wall, on the other hand, is a “tremendous pitcher and second baseman, and is also one of my top-four hitters in the lineup,” according to Dawson.
Last season, the team took second place in districts behind Battle Ground. For the coming season, Dawson has set loftier goals
“We’re a very young team so my goal is to make it to state and I hope to win league,” Dawson said. “If we continue to work hard throughout the season and get better and better, it’ll eventually pay off. It’s not always how you start. It’s how you finish.”
This will be the team’s first full season since 2019. The pandemic canceled the 2020 season and the season in 2021 was shortened.
“Not being able to play full seasons for the past two years is tough because it limits the number of practices you can have. It limits the amount of time you get to work with your players per WIAA rules, so it’s impacted the amount of time the girls have been able to play together,” Dawson said.
The team is currently scheduled to play 21 games, which will be followed by the regional and state tournaments, if they make it.
Prior to their first game, Wall said she was excited to get going.
“I feel like we got it,” said Wall. “I think it’ll be a good game.”
She said the pandemic led to a “rough beginning” for the team last season, but they were able to pull it together and place second at districts.
Wall aspires to be more of a leader for the team. She is also excited to pitch more after she injured her forearm last year.
The team’s first game was held against Camas on March 14.
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