There’s an old saying that playing to a tie is like kissing your sister.
If that’s the case, then the sisters of Lower Columbia College softball players must have faces covered in lipstick.
Through 20 games, LCC is 11-9 overall and 9-7 in the NWAC South Region. The Red Devils have split doubleheaders with Clackamas, Mount Hood (twice), Southwestern Oregon and Clark, swept Chemeketa and Grays Harbor, and were swept by Clackamas in their second meeting.
“We’re happy with our wins, but there always seems to be a split in the South,” LCC coach Traci Fuller said. “A lot of it has to do with pitching. If one team has a good pitcher, the second one isn’t always that good, so game scores can flip-flop.”
In the Devils’ doubleheader with Mount Hood, LCC prevailed in the first game 11-1, but lost the second game 11-1. Against Clark, the Penguins won the opener 8-3, but LCC took the second game 8-3.
“We see some pitchers who we really struggle with, and we see pitchers who we tend to light up,” Fuller said. “It’s all about making adjustments at the plate.”
Fuller noted there are fewer dominant teams in the conference.
“The talent has really spread out to every team, compared to in the past,” she said. “We’re not worrying about the games we lose now because we’re putting more emphasis on the tournament at the end of the season.”
LCC is hitting a combined .322, ranking them 16th among the conference’s 26 teams.
“This is one of the best hitting teams I’ve had here, and I don’t believe they’ve reached their potential,” Fuller said. “We don’t have any slappers and we don’t play a lot of small-ball, but we can put up runs in bunches.”
Freshman pitcher Christine Robbins leads the Devils with a .409 average and 17 RBI, and is tied for the lead in home runs with three. Sophomore hurler Hannah Rothwell is close behind, hitting .400 with three homers and 12 RBI. Freshman shortstop Shanay Dotson is hitting .368, frosh outfielder Aurora Gouley is at .367, and sophomore catcher Sam Boyce is at .366 with three homers and 12 RBIs.
The Devils’ four pitchers have combined for a 6.42 earned run average, 15th in the NWAC. Robbins is 2-2 with a 4.77 ERA, followed by sophomores Jessica Gibson (4-2, 5.41), Hannah Rothwell (2-2, 6.20), and Taylor Brooks (0-2, 10.93).
Rothwell recently injured her throwing arm, and is relegated to designated hitter duties for the rest of the season.
“We struggle with having a solid pitcher,” Fuller said. “We have four who are good, but they all seem to have their ups and downs. We have to support them with runs, as trailing early doesn’t seem to affect them.”
Rain during the spring put a damper on outdoor practices and games, which has led to countless hours hitting and playing catch in the batting barn at Tam O’Shanter Park. The Devils have played 16 games, which is nearly half as many as other teams in the NWAC. Inclement weather washed away five preseason contests, along with the NWAC Crossover Tournament at Delta Park.
“This has been the worst year on record as far as getting games in,” Fuller said. “We weren’t able to get on the field in March, which made it tough to get in many games. It’s been really hard for the pitchers and hitters, but most of the other teams have also had to deal with the weather.”