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Aloha softball applying team concept to season

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - New Aloha softball coach Scott Coombs said itll take a total team effort to keep the Warriors atop Metro.

How do you replace the best softball pitcher in school history, the workhorse of your team, the left-handed wizard who struck pure terror into the hearts of opponents?

To step into Kiana Wood’s hard-to-fill shoes, it’ll have to be all nine players on the diamond to help Aloha win another Metro championship. One competitor can’t do it for the Warriors.

It’s a difficult task to tackle because Wood was so reliable and dominant in the circle for four years. Yet, it’s one Aloha’s ready to face head-on, to show the Warrior program was and is more than one heralded player.

“Pitching is important, but I also feel it’s a team thing,” said senior third baseman Shelby Ratcliffe. “All of us have to contribute individually. We have to trust each other defensively and offensively. We have to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and just come together as a team. It’s not an individual thing.”

“It’s going to get tougher, but I think if we just play our game we should be good,” said pitcher Courtney Coombs. “We’re all getting along pretty well. And, if we just keep working hard we’ll be able to get through the season. We have a lot of good seniors, a lot of leadership.”

Aloha is under a new coaching regime in Jim Marron and Scott Coombs who replace Steve Reynolds at the helm. The Warriors have won two of the last three Metro titles, primarily because of strong pitching, though Scott Coombs it’ll be a communal undertaking to challenge Westview and Jesuit for league bragging rights.

“We want to be solid defensively, and play as a more complete unit, as a team,” said Coombs. “That will be their strength, and so far the girls have done a great job with that. They’ve gelled very well together because we lost some really good talent last year. They all understand they have bigger roles to fill and they’ve all embraced that as a team.”

The majority of Wood’s strong supporting cast from last year is back in the fold including 2013 Metro League Player of the Year Michelle Silva.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Aloha senior shortstop Michelle Silva was the Metros 2013 Player of the Year last year. Silva returns this spring along with two other all-league infielders.

A power hitter who can also hit for average and regularly get on base in the heart of the lineup, the senior shortstop is primed for a big year. Silva has plenty of protection in the order as well, with Ratcliffe, outfielders Ali Locke, Alexa Bailey, senior first baseman Katie Buchanan bringing the power from the right side of the plate.

“Each one of us has a different skill,” said Silva. “Hitting-wise, one of us could drop a bunt. One of us could hit a bomb or get that solid line drive. If we do that, then we can do great in games.”

“We’re working a lot on hitting and not leaving runners on base,” added Ratcliffe. “Hopes are definitely high for us. We just need to do as well as we can and see where we go. I’m hoping for good things.”

Sophomores Mackenzie Sibert and Lexi Wahlstrom have handled the bat well in the preseason and junior second baseman Emily Powers has been strong defensively in the infield.

“I think we definitely have the skill, we just need the intensity and confidence,” said Silva. “We’ve been learning from mistakes and working on them in practice. Everyone takes their individual weaknesses in practice and works on them.”

“We want to win Metro, but we know we have tough competition,” added Courtney Coombs. “We have to hit and have good defense. Hopefully we get through the best we can.”

Coombs said Aloha is an egoless group, focused on helping each other succeed, rather than making sure its individual statistics are all-league quality. Certainly the Warriors have studs in Silva, Buchanan, and Ratcliffe who carry all-Metro credentials, but they’re not reading their own press clippings. They’re interested in team wins and taking Aloha to the top of Metro.

“It’s definitely going to take a team effort,” said Scott Coombs. “We have a couple of players that are exceptional. But, the key for our team is they don’t feel they’re above anybody else. That has set a good example for the players who are lower in the roster. That balance and them supporting each other is what makes us strong. That’ll be our biggest asset.”

Replacing Wood in the circle is Courtney Coombs, a hard-throwing righty who backed up Wood last year, but rarely saw playing time unless the contest was a blowout.

Coombs might not pile up the eye-popping punchout numbers that her predecessor did, but the junior can keep teams off-balance with a deep repertoire of pitches and lean on the Warriors’ strong defense behind her.

“She understands she’s the main arm now,” said Scott Coombs of Courtney. “She’s really embraced that and looking forward to the opportunity. Her strength is really being able to throw multiple pitches. She doesn’t key in on any one, but she has the ability to throw all kinds of spins in the zone. She’s versatile in how many pitches she can throw.”



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