After a historic state title run last year, the Battle Ground girls fastpitch team is gearing up for its first game on March 15.
The team, under the leadership of Jeremy Barr who entered his fourth year as coach this year, secured a third place finish at state last season, which was the best in the program’s history. The players have some big shoes to fill as six key players for the Tigers graduated. Five of those six players went on to play softball at the collegiate level.
All of the players on the varsity squad this season contributed heavily to the team’s success last year, Barr said.
Pitcher Rylee Rehbein is in her senior year and Barr expects her to perform well yet again.
“Rylee is one of the best pitchers in the entire state,” Barr said. “Her numbers back that up. She was like a top three kid for ERA (earned run average) in the whole state last year. She’s on everyone’s watchlist and she’s going to Montana on a scholarship to pitch next year.”
Zoey Hughes, another varsity pitcher for Battle Ground, and three junior varsity pitchers provide the team with the rare luxury at the high school level of having multiple dominant players who could take on the mound, Barr said.
“There’s five pitchers in this program that could throw at the varsity level,” he said.
The 2023 roster features three seniors, who will all go on to play college softball next year, Barr said.
It’s not just the upperclassmen who have exhibited success so far.
“Our sophomores are just great ball players,” Barr said. “From game to game, I think we’re going to see different players come up huge every game because that’s what they did last year.”
Taking on non-league opponents is never an easy feat in Battle Ground athletics and that is especially the case for the softball team this season.
In a double header on Saturday, March 18 at Auburn Riverside High School, the Tigers will play the reigning state champions, Redmond High School, followed by a game with another top team in the state, Bonney Lake High School.
“I think preseason I would suspect that we will be top 10,” Barr said. “We lost some really special seniors and some good leadership. With all the great talent that we lost, we have great talent still in the program. It’s just going to be a little bit different. We got a little more team speed than we had last year, but we may not have as much pop.”
Barr believes Battle Ground’s defense will be just as good as last year.
Heading into their last season for the Tigers, the three seniors at the helm of the team are ready to give it their all.
“I’m looking forward to trying to leave a really good legacy and just making more program history,” Rehbein said.
Senior Katelyn Swanson said she looks forward to a great season with the girls.
“I think we are building a really great community for all the younger girls coming in,” Swanson said.
As for senior Annali Lindersmith, she hopes to “leave this place with a bang.”
“I’m really looking forward to making a lot of memories, especially with all these girls,” Lindersmith said.
Battle Ground’s first game is scheduled for Wednesday, March 15, against rival Prairie High School on the road. The first home game for the Tigers is scheduled for Friday, March 24, against the Camas Papermakers. All games are subject to change depending on the weather.