Prep softball: Rebuilt Westlake team out to extend tradition of success
There are new starters at each position on the infield. Fresh faces at each of the outfield posts. First-year starters behind the plate and in the circle.
Welcome to Westlake softball, version 2.0.
"We are a young team starting over," coach Kimberly Jex said.
Jex was prepared to start over after losing seven starters to graduation and another who transferred from a team that won 18 games last season. But when ace pitcher Alanna Beck didn't return because of personal reasons, the Thunder were left to start with a virtual clean slate.
The role as No. 1 starter now is in the hands of junior Sarah Petersen, who served as a part-time designated hitter last season. The diminutive, hard-throwing right-hander with a dynamite drop ball has yet to show signs of intimidation on the new stage.
"Petey" understands the challenges of playing with a brand new team behind her.
"My biggest worry this year was not having a very experienced defense," Petersen said. "It's tough to work hard pitching and not have a defense that can back you up all the time. But I know they can do it, and I have confidence in them."
Petersen, like the rest of her teammates, is learning on the fly at the varsity level. The Thunder took their lumps in a season-opening tournament in St. George last weekend, then lost a chance at a valuable preseason game Monday when a transportation mix-up postponed Westlake's home opener against Mountain View.
Petersen had hoped to earn some spot starts throughout the season and learn under Beck, who is a senior.
"I thought I'd pitch some varsity and some JV this year," said Petersen, who stands just a hair taller than 5 feet. "It's kind of a surprise, but I'm ready for it. [The biggest difference from JV] is the teams are so big, and I'm so short. They come up to bat and it's like, 'Whoa,' you're 6 feet tall. They are big girls."
Said Jex: "She's teeny, tiny, but you would not believe the power that comes out of that little girl."
The Thunder, who will move up to Class 5A next year, have just one senior on the roster shortstop Kasey Adams. Jex said despite the youth, there is talent on the roster. It's just a matter of how quickly the players can mature.
Petersen is confident that the next two months will provide the experience and results needed to maintain the program's success. The Thunder, who have made the state playoffs each of the three seasons since the school opened, figure to be in the mix again this season in Region 7.
"I want to push the girls really hard and try to get to state," Petersen said. "I know we have that potential, we just have to have confidence. I know we can do it. We are going to be a good team this year."
Westlake has a new player at each starting position this.
The Thunder, who have made the playoffs in each of the program's first three years, have one senior on the roster.
Junior Sarah Petersen is the new team ace after Alanna Beck decided not to return to the team for personal reasons.