By Bron Wickum in Sports
Clark College softball has not had a double-digit winning season since 2012, or won more than three games in league play since joining the Northwest Athletic Conference in 2006.
Clark’s 2-8 league and 11-15 overall records this year seem like the status quo, but to participants of the program their play signals a change in culture.
“Last year, we were out here almost just going through the motions,” said second-year Head Coach Mandy Hill. “This year, you can tell these girls are giving everything they got, their heart is on the line, they are driven to get wins.”
The Penguins have improved in multiple areas of the game over the last three seasons. The past two seasons they had a batting average of .279 and this year the team is batting .302. The team’s earned run average has decreased by an average of 4.87 runs per game, according to nwacsports.org.
Clark’s starting center fielder Haley Hamilton attributes their improvement to not wanting to lose anymore.
Hamilton leads the team in games played, at-bats and hits.
“I think the group of girls coming in have a harder work ethic. A lot of us want to be here,” she said. “We appreciate each other, we need every single person on the team.”
Hill emphasized the importance of team chemistry saying, “We are a family, we are together on everything, no one gets left behind.” Hill has brought in eight new players and has six returning sophomores.
Freshman shortstop Kaycee Allinger said, “My goal is to be a leader as a sophomore, be there for my teammates and make it better.”
The team has gone 18-41 over the past two seasons under Hill. They currently sit nine games back of the South Region leader Clackamas Community College.
The team was improved also by the new depth at the pitcher position. Last season the team had three pitchers and one of them pitched just two innings. This season the team has five pitchers.
“We have so much more to work with,” Hamilton said.
Hill dealt with a short recruitment season after being hired in the fall of 2013. “When I recruit, I always meet the person before I say ‘yeah you have a spot on the team’ because what we have is so unique,” Hill said.
Last year at this time, their record was 6-15 and they had not won a game in league play. Although the wins are not coming as quickly as they want, Hill is not allowing her team to quit.
“We’re not going to settle, we want to keep going and shoot for the moon.”