Three years ago, Clark’s softball team won just two games over the course of an entire season. This year, the coach is talking about making the playoffs.
That’s because, this year, the softball team has one of the largest rosters in the college’s history and the playoff qualifications have changed.
Traditionally, the top four teams of each region advance. Now, according to Athletic Director Ann Walker, the top two teams of each region will qualify, along with the top eight RPI’s.
According to head coach Mandy Hill, this will prevent situations like last year, where the 14-win Penguins did not place high enough in the more challenging southern region to advance, yet Grays Harbor College moved on for the western region with just six wins overall.
“We have a team that’s totally capable of making the playoffs this year,” Hill said.
The Penguins have yet to make a playoff run since the softball program began in 2006. But Hill said this year could be different.
The roster is larger than it was the past four years, featuring 18 players compared with 12 to 15. Hill said the larger team size makes the women push each other harder and encourages competition for a starting position. In 2012-13, the squad all hailed from Washington. This year, seven players came from Oregon, with four from different states.
“We went outside of the local box,” Hill said.
Hill reflected on how far the team has come since her starting season at Clark in 2012-13. She said when she started there were no returners from the previous season and no incoming freshmen, so her goal was just to have a team that could compete. Now, she is looking for a trophy.
“We have everything we need to be there,” said sophomore captain Brittany Langdon. “We have the mentality of being champions.”
Freshman pitcher Madison Plummer said that the entire team is skilled, and most team members had grown up with a dream of playing college softball. A dream that caused Plummer to decide against her plan of attending Oregon State University this year.
“My dad was pushing softball, and Mandy was recruiting pitchers,” she said. Plummer said she wouldn’t have played softball for the university. “So I decided to give Clark a chance, and I decided to give softball and chance, and I’m really glad that I did.”
“My favorite thing about the team is, no matter where everyone comes from or what everyone’s background is, we’re a family,” Plummer said.
Hill echoed Plummer, saying “taking girls from outside of this area who don’t have that solid foundation behind them, like friends and things like that, they definitely came together and we molded as one, instead of just a bunch of teammates from all over the place.”
The Penguins’ season begins March 9 with a home doubleheader against Olympic College.