The Greater Spokane League has dominated fall slowpitch softball since the reintroduction of the sport in 2005.
After all, until the last couple of years, it was the only league competing.
The times, they are changing.
Slowpitch softball was a Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association-sanctioned spring sport from 1979-2002, but dwindling participation throughout the 1990s, thanks in large part to fastpitch, led the association to discontinue slowpitch after the 2002 season.
The GSL brought slowpitch back as a fall sport in 2005 as a way to balance out football as part of the Title IX initiative.
Two years ago, the WIAA adopted a nonsanctioned state tournament to help the sport grow across the state, with Mead topping Central Valley as champion.
Since then, other leagues have formally added the sport to get more athletes involved. Last season, the Big 9, Greater Saint Helens League and Mid-Columbia Conference sent league title winners to the tourney, where Mt. Spokane knocked off University in the title game.
This year, eight Seattle-area KingCo League teams picked up the sport among others, adding to the resurgence.
The state-sanctioned slowpitch tournament is Nov. 1-2 at Gateway Sports Complex in Yakima.
The GSL should be heavily featured in the season-ending tourney, with at least a half-dozen teams making serious claims for the league’s allotment of seeds. The league even managed to grow by one, as Cheney added slowpitch to its athletic offerings this fall.
Already this season, Mt. Spokane (4-0, 2-0) Mead (5-0, 2-0), Lewis and Clark (3-1, 2-0) and Central Valley (2-1, 2-0) are off to good starts.
Central Valley (11-9) placed fifth for coach Joe Stanton last season and will be led by two returning first-team all-league selections, senior 3B Suheyla Tanak and junior INF Gianna McCoy, and second-team pick senior OF Madison McVey.
Cheney introduces slowpitch for the first time this season and coach Gary Blake is excited to see what the Blackhawks can do. “There are a few players from last year’s fastpitch varsity that will form the nucleus for this team, but not a single player who has ever played slowpitch. I expect to struggle and deal with inconsistency early in the season, but expect to be more competitive as the season progresses and the players and coaches gain experience.”
East Valley (8-12) finished eighth in league last season. Coach Tiffany Lockwood will lean on junior first-team all-league INF Emma Todhunter and junior second-team pick P Stevie Schubach for leadership.
Ferris (8-12) is coming off a seventh-place finish in the league. Coach Linda Bushinski lost eight letter winners to graduation but returns three starters, including all-league first-team pick junior OF Katelyn Strauss. Sophomore OF MacKenzie Edwards should provide a boost. “We’re a young, energetic and enthusiastic team that hopes to build on recent successes,” Bushinski said.
Gonzaga Prep (6-14) brings in first-year coach John Dressler, who has 10 letter winners returning, including seniors P Callie Babin and OF Jaden Raley-Jones. “We have a great group of young ladies that work really hard on getting better everyday,” Dressler said. “I believe that we have a great opportunity to be competitive all season.”
Lewis and Clark (11-7) placed sixth for 18-year coach Tara Groves and lost league MVP Carolyn Johnson to graduation. First-team all-league selection SS Madelyn Dibble is one of seven seniors, and junior transfer 3B Avery Tyler will provide support.
Mead (15-5) returns five starters off a third-place team for coach Tiffany Casedy’s third season, led by senior 3B Peyton Cushner and three juniors, P Annie Brose and OFs Tori Veter and Grace Sykora. “We will have a fairly brand new, young team this year,” Casedy said. “I think we have a little more speed this year which we will need because we lost a lot of power.”
Mt. Spokane (16-4) returns six starters and eight letter winners off last year’s state championship team for seventh-year coach Carl Adams. A pair of senior all-league second-teamers – 1B Sydney Wiyrick and OF Andrea Scott – should pace the Wildcats. Senior P/OF Katie McKinnis returns and junior utility player Morgan Flesland is playing slowpitch this fall for the first time. “If we can consistently make the routine play on defense and learn to take what we are given offensively then we can compete every time out,” Adams said.
North Central (1-19) third-year coach Chris Lester has three returning starters, including sophomore all-league SS Isabella Bay, sophomore OF/P Taylor Ownbey and senior 2B Lexi Atchley. Sophomore utility Bella Harris is out for slowpitch after a successful fastpitch season.
Rogers (13-7) finished in fourth place last season for 17-year coach Cris Coffield and returns seven starters, including junior all-league P Destiny Sandbergen and sophomore all-league 3B Jaelynn Proctor. Frosh SS Jamie Olsen should be a spark plug. “Our team this year is very fast and we will have some power hitters as well,” Coffield said. “We will play good team defense and compete toward the upper end of the GSL.”
Shadle Park (1-19) brought back former coach Scott Harmon as head coach this season to replace Guy Perham, who retired. The Highlanders have three senior starters returning: all-league INF Ariel Hall, INF Carley Bachmeier and OF Megan Lore. “My goals are to field two teams, which we weren’t able to do last fall, and to let the girls learn while having fun,” Harmon said.
University (20-0) was state runner-up last season but lost four all-league players to graduation and brings in a new coach, Matt Connor. The cupboard isn’t bare, though, as five starters return, including seniors P Ainsley Rell – a second-team all-league pick – plus senior UTL Kassidy Hammell, junior INF Abby Boden and three returning sophomores. “To be competitive, our sophomores and freshman must step into key roles and be ready to compete at a high level,” Connor said.