Caitlyn Hill smiles in the dugout, cheering and high-fiving her equally enthusiastic teammates.
It’s an inspiring vibe from a 0-12 ballclub.
“I know that we’re not a winning team, but we’re making it fun,” said Hill, a senior and four-year softball player. “I understand life isn’t about winning, even in our losses we’ve grown and learned.”
Through the first nine games of the season, the Spartans were outscored 151-28. But during the last three games Stanwood was outscored 32-25, including a pair of one-run losses last week.
“We really brought our A-game last week,” Hill said. “And while we didn’t win, we really started to believe in ourselves and what we can be capable of.”
The Spartans bats came alive, led by freshman Paige Almanza’s two homers on April 8 and Morgan Saunders’ homer and double on April 9.
“We were playing better defense,” she said. “Everyone was hitting the ball and acting as one team.”
In short: This Stanwood team is trending in the right direction.
“It would be great to get that ‘W’, but it’s not the only goal,” head coach Cherlyn Schander said. “They’re having fun and improving each time out. That win will come.”
On April 8, the Spartans lost a back-and-forth home battle to Edmonds-Woodway 8-7. The following day in Lynnwood, the Spartans rallied back from a 9-1 deficit to tie the contest at 11 in the top of the seventh. But with a runner on with two outs, the Royals slapped a single to right center to walk off with the victory.
“We were close,” Schander said. “But it’s progress.”
Saunders smacked a solo shot and Hill blasted a two-run triple in the game.
“I feel like if we keep working on the little things, the next eight games will be pretty good,” Hill said. “You have to go into the batter’s box saying, ‘I got this … don’t back down.’ We have more confidence in ourselves and our teammates. Everyone is very capable of getting base hits.”
The confidence stems from recent successes as well as solid support from teammates.
“This is a great group of girls,” Schander said. “If the volume goes down (in the dugout), they are the first to call each other out.”
The team has gathered for a group dinner at Hill’s house; they set personal and team goals; and they pride themselves on good communication, Schander and Hill said.
Stanwood also is competing against teams boasting more year-round softball players on their rosters.
“I never played Select Softball,” she said. “It can be hard going up against teams with a lot of players on select or club teams. But coach (Schander) just put in a softball team at the middle school, so that will help in the future.”
Schander said the middle school team proved so popular they are considering adding a second team. In addition, this year’s softball turnout was higher than years past — bucking a trend of declining interest at other Wesco schools.
“The high interest is a good sign,” Schander said.
Hill agreed, but in the meantime is focused on this week’s games against Marysville-Getchell on Monday and Oak Harbor on Tuesday.
“All the girls have such a good bond,” she said. “Now it’s time to go get that win.”
The Spartans rebounded from a 5-0 loss April 8 to Edmonds-Woodway with a 3-0 victory April 10 at Oak Harbor.
The Spartans took a 1-0 lead at the 10-minute mark on a penalty kick by Shintaro Wilcox.
The match remained at 1-0 until midway into the second half when a Wilcox cross found CJ Daniel for a header into the back of the net.
“For the first 10 minutes of the second half, Oak Harbor came at us pretty hard,” head coach Steve Brown said. “We made some adjustments and, shortly after, Shintaro found CJ.”
Moments later, the same connection got the same result, putting Stanwood (4-7-1) up 3-0.
“Shintaro and CJ almost had a third one, but CJ’s header just went wide,” Brown said. “You could see everything really clicking toward the end of the game.”
Stanwood travels Friday to Marysville-Getchell.
“It’ll be nice having just one game and all week to work on some specific techniques,” he said.
After dropping the first two games of their three-game series against rival Arlington, Stanwood cranked it up a notch in the finale.
“You could tell they really wanted this,” head coach Matt Brennan said. “I was proud of them because they had just lost 10-0 (in the first game of a doubleheader Friday) but they turned around and played tough.”
The Spartans — the home team in the second game — opened with a run in the first frame. But the Eagles chipped away with two runs in the third and another in the fifth to take a 3-1 lead into the final inning.
“It was a pitching dual,” Brennan said. “Preston Pierce looked really good against some really good hitters. His best game by far, striking out eight and allowing seven hits, and the guys played well behind him.”
Down to their final out, Pierce poked a two-run triple into right field to tie the game. Ethan Kemp then sent a line drive over the shortstop, who leaped to make the catch and ending the threat.
“We were 2 inches from winning that game,” Brennan said.
Arlington respond with four runs in the top of the eighth when the game was suspended due to darkness with a score of 7-3. The game was scheduled to resume Monday afternoon in Arlington.
Undefeated Arlington, ranked No. 4 in the state by MaxPreps.com, has allowed three or more runs in only two of their 12 games so far this season.
“We feel pretty good about how we played against a top team, but we wanted the win,” Brennan said. “We went toe-to-toe with them.”
After completing the game against the Eagles, the Spartans start a three-game series with Oak Harbor on Tuesday. Listen at TCSNsports.com.
The Spartans came in fifth at a nine-hole Wesco 3A North match on April 11 at Gleneagle Golf Course in Arlington.
Stanwood was led by Cole Weiderstrom (40), Talyn Doebke (44), Gage Powell (44) and Logan Brannon (46).
The Spartans travel Wednesday to Brewster for the Gamble Sands Invitational and return Thursday for the club’s first home match of the season: a nine-hole Wesco 3A North match at Camaloch Golf Course on Camano Island.
Stanwood (3-2) did not play last week. They face Meadowdale on Tuesday in its home opener at 5 p.m. at Stanwood Middle School.
The Spartans did not compete last week. Stanwood hit the course Monday when they hosted Arlington at Camaloch Golf Course.
The Spartans (6-2) did not compete last week. They take to the court next Tuesday.
Track and Field
Stanwood did not compete last week. The Spartans next face Archbishop Murphy and Marysville-Pilchuck on Thursday at Quil Ceda Stadium.