By AJ MAZZOLINI
East Oregonian

PENDLETON — Lemonade.

It’s what new Blue Mountain Community College softball coach Tom Mauldin sees when he looks out at practice before his team’s first game this week. He’ll have players miss that game — and possibly many more — because of injuries or academics and weather has hamstrung much of the preseason.

But the lemons are there and the veteran coach is ready to juice.

BMCC opens its season in Richland, Wash., at a preseason tournament for four games this weekend. The first Timberwolf batter of the spring will step to the plate against Clark on Saturday at 11 a.m.
But the offseason work isn’t finished. A team coming off a 4-36 campaign brings back just three sophomores and this  year’s recruits were all stacked at one position — meaning Mauldin’s lemons look an awful lot like third basemen.

Mauldin — a former high school coach at Sisters and assistant director for the softball clinic Fastpitch Northwest — spent the early season juggling lineups and trying to fill gaps in the outfield, the coach said. Blue Mountain will struggle with quickness on the base paths but playing big sluggers at the speed positions will yield some explosive  offense.

“We have at least five girls that will be putting an ‘ouch’ on a ball,” Mauldin said of the team’s power.

Leading that category is sophomore Kendal Weber, a sophomore catcher from Canby who smacked the third-most dingers in the NWAACC last season while hitting .383.

The team really has nowhere to go but up after 2011’s trying last-place finish, Weber said.

“I learned that no matter how bad you do, you have to push through it,” Weber said. The poor performance forged bonds between the sophomores and helped them realize what they don’t want to suffer through.

Blue Mountain will show some athleticism up the middle between shortstop Cheyenne Friend and second baseman Randi Kostner. Mauldin said the pair will alleviate some of the pressure on his green outfielders by keeping more balls in the infield. And they’ll get plenty of practice with pitchers instructed to keep the ball down to increase grounders this season.
 


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