NASELLE — After graduating six seniors (five starters) from last year’s team that was one win from going to state, the Naselle High School softball team is doing something they haven’t had to do in several years — start over.
“There are a few newbies,” explained head coach Bekah Wirkkala last week. “The majority of our team is in their second year ever playing softball. It’s a building year, but that’s alright. We almost didn’t have a team, but our girls did some recruiting.”
Thanks to that recruiting, the Comets have 12 girls on the team as of last week. Wirkkala said that there has been a different mindset at the practices so far.
“It’s fundamentals,” she said. “Going over situational stuff and (keeping it) basic, basic, basic. We’re going back to the fundamentals. I have six who know what they’re doing. That know the game. Then there are three who kinda know. And then there are four or five who just aren’t really sure.”
Eighth-grader Hollie Haataia has been brought up to help round out the high school team that features only three seniors — Kelly Langston, Morgan Ridgeway (who played centerfield last year and moves to first base) and Tayler Ford.
Pitching for the Comets will be a combination of Ford, Holly Disch (who Wirkkala describes as their best hitter), and Hailey Weston.
“Pitching-wise I’m not so nervous,” said the coach. “They’re working hard. They know they have a load (to carry at the position).”
Wirkkala said that she hopes what they lack in on-field experience they will make up for in guts.
“I guess I just want to create a group of fighters, no matter what’s going on,” she said. “That’s just how I coach. This is a varsity program and the best nine or 10 will play. I’m just going to instill the fight in them.
“We’re not the only ones to have a rebuilding year. Maybe our whole league is having a building year?”
And she may not be far off, as a number of teams in the 1B Coastal League no longer feature the sport.
“It’s more of an independent league (this year),” she said, noting that Mary M Knight will not have a team and Oakville was on the fence.
The Comets will round out their schedule with games against 2B schools like Ilwaco (who they are scheduled to open their season against), Ocosta, Winlock and South Bend, who are debuting the sport this season.
“I’m excited and (the team) is eager,” said Wirkkala. “The ones who maybe aren’t as experienced, are working really hard. Which is what I like to see.”
The Comets are scheduled to host Ilwaco on March 15, and then travel to Long Beach to play the Lady Fishermen on Friday.