Poky

Pocatello pitcher Jami Nalley throws a pitch in a game last season.

HIGHLAND RAMS

Highland

Highland’s Marrisa Jackson bunts during a 2017 game.

Coach: Tisha Coverdell, 23rd season

Record last year: 22-4, went 1-2 at 5A state tournament

Current record: 5-5

Starters returning/lost: 4/5

Players to watch: OF Makayia Anderson, soph.; IF Marrisa Jackson, sr.

Reason for optimism: Highland has versatility — something coach Tisha Coverdell has learned through replacing injured players. The Rams return four starters from last year’s squad that rolled through the regular season, including senior Marrisa Jackson. “We have girls that are willing to step up, try different positions when we need them,” Coverdell said.

Reason for concern: Highland’s litany of injuries, combined with widespread inexperience and the loss of five starters, presents a steep learning curve.

Plus, the Rams are consistently one of the top teams in 5A, putting added pressure on a youthful roster. “They have some big shoes to fill,” Coverdell said.

CENTURY DIAMONDBACKS

Coach: Bruce Givens, second season

Record last year: 1-22

Current record: 0-0

Starters returning/lost: 3/6

Players to watch: OF Lexi Fowler, sr; OF Emma Fackrell, sr; OF/P Dia Misner, sr.; C Ainslee Campion sr.

Reason for optimism: Century returns seven players from last season’s one-win team, including four with varsity experience. The team’s outfield is built from experienced seniors, who will help the underclassmen transition to full-time varsity roles. Lexi Fowler and Ainslee Campion are back after hitting .305 and .333, respectively, a season ago.

Reason for concern: The D-backs have to replace six starters, and coach Bruce Givens said there will be growing pains. Gone are the team’s top-five batting averages and 119 hits from last season’s lineup. “The girls are going to have to develop quickly to contend in the district,” Givens said.

POCATELLO INDIANS

Pocatello Maddie Palmer

Pocatello's Maddi Palmer, right, throws to first base after getting the out at second as Rigby’s Audrey Hegi slides in their 2016 game at OK Ward Park. 

 

Coach: Josh Naylor, fifth season

Record last year: 23-6, went 0-2 at 4A state tournament

Current record: 3-0

Starters returning/lost: 6/3

Players to watch: P Jami Nalley, sr.; P Hannah Evans, jr.; SS Maddi Palmer, jr.

Reason for optimism: Pocatello is coming off winning three consecutive 4A District 5-6 championships. “We have a good foundation built,” Pocatello coach Josh Naylor said. “We bring back a good core from last year’s team.” The Indians’ biggest strength is their pitching staff, led by Jami Nalley and Hanna Evans. Naylor used “crafty” to describe Nalley, while he said Evans was a power pitcher.

Reason for concern: The defense will have to get calibrated after losing three All-Area first-team selections. Plenty of players are making position changes. The Indians are also in search of their first state tournament win since 2015. “We’ve had some good teams go there. It’s a tough thing to win just because we don’t really see that type of competition until we get there,” Naylor said. “But that’s no excuse. It’s my job to get them ready.”

BLACKFOOT BRONCOS

 

Kelsie Monson state

Blackfoot’s Kelsie Monson tags out Sandpoint’s Zoe Speelmon at second base last year in the 4A state tournament at Post Falls High School.

Coach: Jeff Dalley, first season

Record last year: 16-11, went 0-2 at 4A state tournament

Current record: 1-2

Starters returning/lost: 6/3

Players to watch: P/SS Kelsie Monson sr.; C/3B Riley Moore sr.

Reason for optimism: Blackfoot returns firepower from last season’s 4A District 5-6 second-place team. The Broncos are led by first-year coach Jeff Dalley, who deploys a small-ball strategy this season. He wants the Broncos to be fundamentally sound and rely on their experience.

Reason for concern: The Broncos have big holes to fill after the graduation of Hadlie Henderson, Anicia Luna and Brooklyn Adams, three of four players who appeared in all 27 games last season. Henderson led the team in hits and batting average, while Adams led the team in home runs. Henderson also had a 2.64 ERA in 82 innings pitched.

PRESTON INDIANS

Coach: Larry Morrison, fourth season

Record last year: Unavailable

Current record: Unavailable

Starters returning/lost: 3/6

Reason for optimism: Coach Larry Morrison believes his team is very talented this season. The Indians, who have two seniors, work well together and are versatile, according to Morrison. His three returning starters will also play a key role this season.

Reason for concern: The Indians have six new starters and are a young team. The team must work through its inexperience and find a way to compete in 4A District 5-6. Some of the new players also must adjust to the pace of varsity games.

AMERICAN FALLS BEAVERS

Coach: Eric Morris, eighth season

Record last year: 0-20

Current record: 0-2

Starters returning/lost: 4/5

Players to watch: SS McKenzie Long, fr.; LF Riley Jensen, sr.; P Jenna Hansen, soph.

Reason for optimism: American Falls brings plenty of enthusiasm and is ready to get better. “There’s a lot of energy with the group that we’ve got,” Beavers coach Eric Morris said. “They seem to work well together. It’s just making it all come together.” McKenzie Long is one of the most promising players on the team. The freshman shortstop is a natural athlete who plays multiple sports, including track and field this spring. “We could put her at any position,” Morris said. “She still lacks some experience, but she picks it up very quickly.”

Reason for concern: American Falls doesn’t have a strong veteran presence, with two seniors on the roster. The Beavers also don’t have experience winning, going 0-20 last season. Morris hopes six Rockland players infuse a winning mentality.

MARSH VALLEY EAGLES

Coach: Joel McQuivey, third season

Record last year: 17-10, went 0-2 at 3A state tournament

Current record: 3-2

Starters returning/lost: 6/3

Players to watch: P Carter Thornton, jr.; C Jensyn Gibson, jr.; UT Camryn McQuivey, sr.

Reason for optimism: Marsh Valley reloads after winning its first softball district title a season ago. Carter Thornton is back in the circle, while Jensyn Gibson and Camryn McQuivey lead the team’s bats. The Eagles also have depth, with 12 versatile players on the roster. Coach Joel McQuivey preaches competition, and this year’s team is no different. “The girls are playing well together,” coach McQuivey said. “We should have a strong year.”

Reason for concern: The Eagles have new faces in the outfield. The trio saw varsity time last season, but must adapt to full-time varsity roles. Coach McQuivey is also shuffling through players at other positions early in the season. “My philosophy is that there isn’t a set position on my field,” coach McQuivey said. “I want to create utility players.”

SNAKE RIVER PANTHERS

Coach: Kay Martin, 17th season

Record last year: 12-10

Current record: 2-1

Starters returning/lost: 8/1

Players to watch: P/UT Savanna Martin, sr; UT Abbey Tew, jr.; UT Macey Brown, sr.

Reason for optimism: Snake River has eight starters back from last season and has firepower up and down its lineup. The Panthers also have eight seniors on their roster. Snake River’s offensive depth has coach Kay Martin optimistic, along with the team’s pitching as the Panthers have two starting-caliber arms to use.

Reason for concern: Coach Martin believes his offense will be dynamic, but he wonders how his lineup will play when small-ball styles are needed. The Panthers will need to generate runs in the short game, especially in close games.

BEAR LAKE BEARS

Coach: Doug Stephens, fifth season

Record last year: 16-10, lost 2A state play-in game

Current record: 2-2

Starters returning/lost: 6/3

Players to watch: 3B Sky Wallentine, sr.; P/SS Haylee Eborn, sr.; P Bailey Armstrong, soph.

Reason for optimism: Bear Lake features a one-two punch from the mound in pitchers Haylee Eborn and Bailey Armstrong, who have a “night-and-day” difference in pitching styles, according to Bears coach Doug Stephens. While Armstrong is a sophomore, Eborn is one of five seniors who start for the Bears. Stephens is enthused about what the seniors will bring.

Reason for concern: Bear Lake has two worries: injuries that could force players to change positions and bad weather that could cancel games and keep the team from gaining valuable experience.

MALAD DRAGONS

 

SBG Malad v West Side

West Side’s Grace Montes, right, makes it safely to third as Malad’s Kassidy Willie applies the tag in a 2016 game.

Coach: Bob Hannah, fourth season

Record last year: 20-7, third place at 2A state tournament

Current record: 1-3

Starters returning/lost: 6/3

Players to watch: 1B Britlynn Hubbard, jr.; C Varcy Neal, sr.; 3B Kassidy Willie, sr.

Reason for optimism: Malad reloads this season. The 2A state third-place finishers return six starters, including their entire infield from a season ago. Varcy Neal, a four-year starter behind the plate, is the team’s “spark plug” and is one of five seniors on the team. The Dragons have won three of the last five 2A state titles. “We are hoping to continue the success they expect at Malad,” Dragons coach Bob Hannah said.

Reason for concern: The Dragons lost starting pitcher Rachel Green to graduation, and the team must find a consistent arm in the circle. Green went 18-8 last season with a 2.47 ERA for the Dragons, who have used three different pitchers so far this season.

SODA SPRINGS CARDINALS

Coach: Wade Schvaneveldt, second season

Record last year: Unavailable

Current record: Unavailable

Starters returning/lost: 6/3

Players to watch: C Morgon Wood, soph; SS Tayler Meyers, sr; UT Haley Ledbetter, sr.

Reason for optimism: The Cardinals are in their second season under coach Wade Schvaneveldt’s leadership. The foundation has been formed, and Schvaneveldt has his team believing. Soda Springs has five players with varsity experience this season. “They have expectations to win some games,” Schvaneveldt said.

Reason for concern: The recent weather has forced Soda Springs to practice in its gym. The Cardinals also play in the always competitive 2A District 5.