MONUMENT - Anyone who has spent time in the Discovery Canyon softball dugout knows the 2019 season was not what we’ve come to expect from the Thunder. With just five wins, last season marked the program’s first losing record in nearly a decade.
But there are some new players donning purple and black this year helping the Thunder get back on track.
Wednesday, Discovery Canyon flexed its youthful — and powerful — lineup in a 12-7 5A/4A PPAC win over Palmer Ridge, handing the Bears their first league loss of the season, and breaking a four-game winning streak.
“We came into the season with a bit of a fresh start I think. It was kind of a rough season for us last year, so it’s nice to have some new young talent here that is just hungry to compete,” Discovery Canyon coach Tanya Ramsay said.
With just three seniors on the roster this year’s Thunder squad leans on its youth with three freshmen and a sophomore in the batting order — all of whom are hitting .350 or above in their first varsity season.
“It’s a big statement because we have had a lot of success in our program, but this is definitely one of our top hitting squads,” Ramsay said. “We have some upperclassmen doing a great job for us, but I’ll tell you what, our freshmen are stepping in and acting like they’ve been here and that is fun to see.”
Discovery Canyon’s bats exploded in the third inning bringing in six runs thanks in part to home runs hit by juniors Sydney Bankston and Janelle Cacal.
But Palmer Ridge (4-2, 3-1) got hot the following inning, taking advantage of mistakes and making Thunder pitcher Mallory Wilson work for each out.
Sophomore captain Brynn Short changed the tone for the Bears as the second batter up in the fourth inning, battling through a long at-bat with multiple fouls on a full-count before finally hitting a laser to left.
“She is a grinder, I had her batting fifth but I moved her up to fourth just because she is always putting the ball in play and she is always a tough out,” said Palmer Ridge coach Jason Romero.
Although the next two at-bats were quick outs for Discovery Canyon (4-2, 4-2), Palmer Ridge brought five runs across the plate, capitalizing on what appeared to be a fatigued pitcher.
But that wasn’t the case. Wilson, who relies on her hard-trained mechanics and tries to block out her head and her heart, easily shook off the bad inning and allowed just three hits the rest of the way.
“I've had a lot of experience with innings like that and I kind of feel like I just need to let go of that and know that I’m going to be better next time,” Wilson said. “I focus on every pitch at a time, and like in the last two innings I was just kind of telling myself to focus (on my mechanics) and stop thinking. I also knew I had my defense behind me to help me.”
Wilson earned the win with 10 strikeouts and helped offensively with two RBIs. Fellow freshman Kassidy Randolph, junior Sydney Bankston, Cacal and senior Lauren Davis had two RBIs each.
Palmer Ridge ace Geneva German, a sophomore, took some time to evaluate Discovery Canyon and the threats within the lineup, and had it not been for a few errors letting runs in late, Romero said he believes his Bears would have been neck-and-neck with the Thunder in the later innings.
“G tends to settle in after the first round and starts finding some of their weak spots. She is able to locate really well and moving forward as she gets older she is going to get better at that. She is probably the answer to my prayers this year,” said Romero, who lost last year’s ace to graduation.
German finished with eight strikeouts and Rain VanWinkle led the Bears with two RBIs.