Josh Donaldson’s team is looking more and more like a postseason favorite. No, not the MLB free-agent third baseman.
This is R.A. Long’s slowpitch coach, who opted to utilize a unique defensive alignment that’s delivered excellent results.
“Someone once said, ‘Find the 10 best fielders and make sure they can hit,’” Donaldson said. “In two of our first three games, we allowed six runs, and then eight. Since then no team has scored more than three runs on us.”
Camas spoiled that impressive streak in the final game of the regular season, as the Jills fell 13-7. But they will get their rematch in a district championship game on Tuesday in Camas against those same Papermakers.
Donaldson’s change was to move an outfielder to the infield, kind of like a shortstop on either side. Slowpitch generally utilizes four outfielders, but the Lumberjills have enough athleticism to play around. Donaldson likened it to the shift in baseball, moving a defender over against a pull hitter.
“If you can induce ground balls and are playing five infielders, you’re going to be in good shape,” Donaldson said.
Having Saige Kochis in center field is the key. She can cover enough ground to make it work well.
“My range gets shrunk down a bit with four outfielders,” Kochis said. “A lot of them don’t go to the outfield with most the teams that we play, since the ball comes in slower. “
Other than a defensive mixup, not much else has changed from R.A. Long’s first season in program history — which garnered a state berth last year.
“We didn’t have any seniors last year, and we brought back every single girl who played,” Donaldson said. “We also have a solid group of freshmen, three starters.”
Five of the team’s starters also played significant roles on the fastpitch team, including pitcher Savannah Fesler. She’s the ultimate dual threat, not allowing many runs and batting over .700 with 24 RBIs. There’s six hitters batting over .600, and another four with averages over .500.
A lot of it has to do with experience.
“This year’s different because we have a lot of players who are educated about the game,” Fesler said. “They can play their position well. Hope (Childers), she plays fastpitch and that reflects to slowpitch. Whereas last year, we had girls who’d never played before.”
Combine it all, and you get a nearly undefeated regular season.
“I don’t feel that our defensive alignment is that weird but a lot of teams just don’t have the outfield to do it,” Donaldson said. “There’s no star. Everyone has a responsibility and everyone takes care of business.”
It sets up R.A. Long for another deep postseason run.