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Lakewood fastpitch sluggers look to attack
LAKEWOOD — Over the course of a long fastpitch softball season, it is incredibly unlikely for a player to record more hits than outs at the plate.
But don’t tell that to veteran Lakewood Cougars head coach Steve Barker.
Barker’s offense-laden team, coming off a rough 8-12 season, is back and ready to feast off of Cascade Conference pitching, led by returning all-conference shortstop Arianna Barrio, who broke the school record last year with a .522 batting average.
Also above the magical .500 mark was Kiana Smith, who hit an incredible .516 as a freshman and will bat in the three-hole.
Finishing off the Cougars’ triple threat is senior Alexa Chase, who has a great eye at the plate. She is a natural first baseman who will move back to that position full-time this year after seeing time at third last season.
“Arianna and Alexa both are returning, and they’ve started every year of high school,” Barker noted. “Last year we did score quite a few runs with (them).”
Barrio is actually the second-oldest of five sisters in a talented fastpitch family. The elder Barrio, Kahlee, is currently playing her sophomore season at George Fox University in Oregon, and the middle sister, Terah, will likely start at third base this year as a freshman.
“It’s been great,” Barker said on what it’s been like to coach the Barrio sisters. “They rank right up there will all the good ones I’ve had at Arlington and Lakewood.”
Currently in his 21st season coaching with the Cougars, Barker formerly coached 12 years of fastpitch at Arlington High.
Barker’s squad is set to get their season underway on Monday at home against Burlington, first pitch at 4 p.m. Like many teams, the Cougars will start off a little raw, due to Mother Nature’s fury that saw practice after practice rained out last week.
“Everything’s going according to plan, except with the weather conditions we’ve only been outside for three full practices out of the first eight,” Barker said. “We’re not as far along as we’d like to be, but we don’t have any control over that.”
The Cougars play in the Cascade 2A league against powerhouse teams like Granite Falls, the defending conference champions, and Barker realizes that his team will only be as successful as their weakness, which is pitching and catching.
“We have two sophomores and freshmen all with very limited pitching experience,” he said, adding that a lot of his players attended a winter clinic to improve their games. “The girls did put in a lot of offsesason work, so we expect our pitching to be much better. We also have no returning catchers.”
The Cougars can only hope their trademark offense will be able to bail them out, at least until the team’s young and inexperienced battery gets some games, and crucial experience, under its belt.
“The other pieces are in place,” said Barker, referring to his team’s proven offensive ability. “We will go as far as our pitching and catching will allow us.”