Juanita’s Briar Swayne rolls into third base during a jamboree on March 9. Andy Nystrom/staff photo

Juanita’s Briar Swayne rolls into third base during a jamboree on March 9. Andy Nystrom/staff photo

Juanita’s softball team is ready for return to state

For the Rebels, hitting, pitching and communication are key.

When the sun made its appearance at a recent Juanita High softball practice, coach Traci Odegard and her players were beaming and chatting away. Training outside on that nice day was another step toward the 3A KingCo season that this team eager to put on their plate.

“I’m excited. … Once we get out here, it gets me even more excited,” said Odegard, whose Rebel squad had to practice indoors during rainy weather. “Working on the simple basic fundamentals and getting these girls coming together and talking and working as a team, especially because there’s new girls. Days like this, when we can be outside, we take full advantage of it. We have a lot of fun.”

Leading the way for the team that last year qualified for the 3A state tournament are seniors Megan Murray on the mound, Lexi Blackburn at first base and Briar Swayne behind the plate. According to Odegard, Murray has grown and will mix up her pitches, Blackburn has put even more power into her hitting, and Swayne is even better defensively and offensively.

They all play select ball and “plan on going out with a bang this year,” the coach said. “They’re gonna be bringing leadership — we’re working on team chemistry and making sure that we are communicating on the field a lot. These three, offensive-wise, should be our pretty dominant core.”

On the youngster front, a couple freshmen hurlers will join Murray in nailing down a solid foundation to the pitchers’ circle, Odegard said.

When the girls are competing in select contests, Odegard spends her time thinking about what worked for Juanita last year and what they need to improve upon.

She feels they always possess a strong defense and they’ll continue to be solid with their gloves.

“I grind it into these girls’ minds that defense wins games; that’s what I believe in. They’ve seen it happen and they’ve proven it to themselves,” Odegard said.

Juanita’s players will be working on communicating with each other. This year, Odegard and her assistant coaches will be moving the players around and implementing a lot of different kinds of defenses.

“Our main goal is not to have a quiet field out there, so we’re always gonna be talking and communicating and just pumping each other up,” Odegard said.

Head coach: Traci Odegard

Last year: 9-5 league, 14-14 overall, state qualifier, third place in 3A KingCo

Key returners: Megan Murray, senior, P; Lexi Blackburn, senior, 1B; Briar Swayne, senior C

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