The 2019 season marked the start of a new era for the Lady Bulldogs, as West Albany High School had gotten caught up in a shuffle that ultimately sent them down to 5A from 6A, putting them in the newly formed Mid-Willamette Conference. No longer playing with Salem, Forest Grove, or McMinnville, the Lady Bulldogs were now more regionalized against South Albany, Corvallis, Lebanon, and other local schools. Their first year in 5A resulted in a 24-4 record with a 15-1 conference mark, winning the Mid-Willamette conference and going all the way to Jane Sanders Stadium in Eugene, where they would ultimately fall to state runner-up Ridgeview in the semifinals. With their 2020 season on hold, four Lady Bulldogs talk about last season and their expectations once we get spring sports fired up in the new decade….
Going Far, But Falling Short
Let’s start with last year: Y’all were 24-4 overall and went 15-1 in Mid-Willamette Conference play, going all the way to the state semifinals against Ridgeview. What would you say were the biggest takeaways from last season for you as a player? How do the results of last season motivate you for this year?
Ellie Babbitt: “My biggest takeaway from last season was the shift in our mindset as the year began. We believed and still have no doubt in our mind that we should’ve taken the state title last year, and we should take this year.”
McKenzie Kosmicki: “The biggest takeaways were probably that our team is fully capable of winning a state title , and that we are really, really good. When a team realizes that, it’s really hard to slow their roll. I think that is what’s going to makes us super challenging this year. Being so close to winning last year has motivated me to go that extra step so we can make it all the way.”
Sidnee Holloway: “I think the biggest takeaways from last year as a player was realizing how much working as a team impacts how we play. We always make sure that what happens off the field stays off the field because once you step on the dirt we are all family and have each other’s back. We were so pumped for this season and knew that we were going in for revenge. Last season was so much fun and we were striving for the championship ring, it definitely ended abruptly at the Ridgeview game, and we were all looking forward to March 30th when we were supposed to play Ridgeview at our place. I think that us knowing we had the skill and potential to win that semi-finals game is going to push us to the championship this year.”
Haily Greening: “Some of the biggest takeaways for me as a player would be that we all win as a team and we all lose as a team. Some games may seem like the win or loss was based on one or a few players but when you look at the game as a whole, every single person contributes to that win or loss. Another big takeaway for me as a player was seeing how much I was able to grow throughout the season. Being new to the team, the girls, and coaching staff opened up my eyes to how different the level of play is here in Oregon. The girls and the coaches all contributed to how much I grew throughout the season. The results from last season make me want to get a better batting average and have more homeruns than I did last year. I want to also become better as a player/person overall.”
Personal Improvement and Team Strengths
Y’all were a young team last season and are once again this year, as y’all only have a lone senior while returning four juniors and four sophomores. Coming off last season, what are your biggest goals as a player in terms of improvement on the field? What do you think the biggest strengths are for this team in 2020?
Sidnee Holloway: “I think our biggest team strengths this year is our team chemistry , it is so strong we are all able to trust each other on the field and know that our teammates will always be there to pick us up if we fail. Our team is young but we are such a strong and talented group of athletes that we push each other to the best of each persons ability. I think as a player my biggest goal as a player is that I want to show my true skills , I think last year people got to see what u really have to offer by the end of the season, but I know that I have so much more and I’m really want and am going to showcase my skills in the limited games that we are hopefully going to get.”
Haily Greening: “My biggest goal this year is to be that leader on the field that people look up to and follow when it comes game time. Being the only senior this year I have huge shoes to fill and I want to do my best to fill those shoes completely. The biggest strength for this 2020 team is being a family. Everyone gets along and we treat each other like family.”
Ellie Babbitt: “My biggest goal last year and this year especially, since we are such a young team is learning how to properly communicate because it’s such a big part of the game when young athletes are being added to the team and I know that our upperclassmen will be able to set the tone and get everyone on board.”
McKenzie Kosmicki: “My biggest goal this year is keeping my mental game in the best shape possible. I am going to be pitching a lot of games and doing that requires a lot of focus. I can’t go out there scared, and instead have to go out there knowing I’m going to dominate every pitch. The biggest strengths for us as a team are we can hit the freaking ball, we don’t make errors, and we all get along extremely well and hold each other accountable.”
Overcoming The Hurdle
Coming within two wins of a state championship, how can this team overcome the hurdle and make it to the state championship game in 2020? Who are going to be the biggest keys in order to make that happen?
Haily Greening: “In order to make it to the state championship this year, we need to focus on the game one play at a time. We cannot look at the next few innings because it will mess up our momentum in the game. Little steps can lead to a big win when it comes to the state championship.”
Ellie Babbitt: “For 2020, I think our biggest strength is going to be our bats. We’ve always been a great hitting team, we like to show off and we also love to compete with each other, which ends up bringing in a lot of runs! Losing in the semis last year was really rough but I think that we needed that loss to be able to come back stronger this year. We’re not going to underestimate any team we face. What’s going to get us the state title is staying hungry and remembering the feeling of letting it slip last year.”
McKenzie Kosmicki: “We are doing a lot more training this year when it comes to being mentally prepared and physically stronger. Doing things like that will be what is going to get us over that hurdle.”
Sidnee Holloway: “I think our confidence level is going to be a huge factor in how far we go this year. I think last year we knew that we could handle Ridgeview but we showed up timid and exactly ready to play West softball. I think we are all key to our success this year. We all give 120% of what we have, but there are a couple girls we wouldn’t be able to play with out for sure. Ellie Babbitt is an amazing shortstop and a definite force to be reckoned with in the batters box. Along with the three other juniors, Presley Jantzi & Riley Ramirez who are legit triple threats with being able to hit dingers, bunt, and slap. Mckenzie Kozmicki is an amazing outfielder and has an insane arm in the circle while pitching, along with being able to swing the stick. But I think we wouldn’t be able to do any of this with out our senior Haily Greening, she moved to Oregon from Alaska before her junior year and she’s an insanely amazing catcher, without her we wouldn’t have anyone behind the dish.”
Who Lighten’s The Mood? Who Lights A Fire?
Kind of a fun question for y’all: Which one of y’all is the biggest jokester? How about the fieriest one?
Sidnee Holloway: “Riley Ramirez and Ellie Babbitt will make you laugh constantly together, not only do they tear it up in the infield but they become the impractical jokers when you’re around them. Presley Jantzi is our firecracker for sure, she is our spit fire and will go into battle and has any one of her teammates backs no matter what.”
McKenzie Kosmicki: “I’d have to say the biggest jokester is Presley Jantzi, and the fiercest one is Ellie Babbitt.”
Haily Greening: “The biggest jokester on the team this year is Presley Jantzi and the fiercest ones are Kenzie Kosmicki and Ellie Babbit.”
Ellie Babbitt: “The biggest jokester on the team is Presley Jantzi without a doubt, and anyone who reads this is going to laugh when they hear that because anyone who knows her agrees. The fieriest one is probably me I have a temper for sure and am horribly stubborn to tell the truth.”
Advice To That Future Softball Star
The Valley is a huge hot spot for youth softball players, especially in the Salem/Albany areas. What advice would you give to young girls who have high aspirations in softball?
McKenzie Kosmicki: “Advice for the younger girls would have to be don’t forget about training your mind, and make sure to visualize what you want to happen. You have to be able to see what you want and then you have to be able to go get it. Softball is a game where you need to know what to do before the play even happens, so make sure to go through all the scenarios before that pitch leaves that players hand.”
Sidnee Holloway: “I would say to all the young girls who want to do great things in the softball world to give it everything you have. Attitude and effort is how things roll around here at West Albany. I would also tell them to keep pushing and to stay humble, even through all of the hitting slumps and home runs.”
Ellie Babbitt: “If I had any advice for young girls starting their softball career, I’d like them to know that just because you’re a GIRL from a small town in Oregon doesn’t mean you don’t have as much potential as a girl from LA. Girls from the north always have been seen as “lower competition” as opposed to the Cali girls or other hotspots. I want girls here to know that it’s all a myth and the only thing that separates you from your competitors is your drive and confidence.”
Haily Greening: “The biggest advice I would give to young girls playing the game is to have fun. We are only able to play softball for part of our lives and while we are playing our main focus shouldn’t be to please our coaches or our parents, it shouldn’t be to not make any mistakes, it should be to have fun and enjoy that game for as long as we play it.”