The Hornets lost some key performers from a team that made back-to-back appearances in the Class 2A state tournament, so it’s time for others to step to the plate.
While acknowledging the losses, coach Brandon Walker remains upbeat. “We lost a lot of players to graduation last season, but we still have the same goals as we have had in previous seasons,” he said. “We have some players that who will get an opportunity to step in and show that they can compete at a high level.”
Those losses include Megan Vandegrift, a shortstop who wound up an all-state, first-team selection, after being named the SPSL 2A’s Athlete of the Year. She has taken her talents a bit north, where she has joined the University of Washington program. Also lost to graduation was Maddi Pipitone, the league’s two-time Pitcher of the Year.
But Walker still has proven talent to call upon.
Back on the Hornet diamond are a pair of first team, all-league performers in Payton Wallen and Noelle Mills. Both seniors, Wallen has held down third base duties while Mills patrols the outfield.
Also aiding the Hornet cause are a pair of juniors, Marissa Dolson and Marissa Bartels. Dolson was a first-team infielder a season ago and Bartels made the second team as a utility players.
Bartels will be called upon this year to showcase her pitching arm. She was the team’s No. 2 hurler last season and, this time around, she “will get a chance to show what she can do on a more consistent basis,” Walker said.
The Hornets will receive their first test of the season this coming Tuesday, March 12, when Lindbergh High is slated to make the trek to Buckley.
The 2019 edition of the White River Hornets will make their season debut in rivalry fashion, traveling Friday to challenge Enumclaw High in the diamond version of the Battle of the Bridge.
The season opener for both squads begins at 7 p.m., under the lights at Enumclaw’s Osborne Field.
This year’s White River squad is under the direction of third-year coach Nate Barnett, who has some proven talent to work with.
Back for their senior seasons, after earning first team, all-league honors a year ago, are shortstop Joe Flanigan, outfielder Karsten Deitz, pitcher Brock Keller and designated hitter Blake Lidstrom. Infielder Braeden McNally was a second-team pick last year and sophomores Hunter Smith and Robbie Vandegrift received all-league honorable mention.
Flanigan, a four-year varsity player, has signed a letter-of-intent and will continue his baseball career at Tacoma Community College. At TCC, he will be joined by Hornet teammate Jacob Selander, a three-year varsity performer in both the outfield and on the pitching mound. Also signing a collegiate letter-of-intent was Keller, a three-year varsity player, who is headed to Centralia College.
The Hornets are coming off a season in which they went 18-8 and came within a single victory of earning a berth in the Class 2A state tournament.