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Winning Culture: SSHS softball set to defend state title
by Dan Eckles
Mar 03, 2011 | 1051 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs junior outfielder Bella Rovens runs down a line drive during Thursday's practice.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs junior outfielder Bella Rovens runs down a line drive during Thursday's practice.
The Spanish Springs softball factory is open again for another spring season. While it might be cliche to call the local high school program a factory, it is fitting. The Cougars have churned out wins as easily as an efficient assembly line.

The SSHS program doesn't seem like it ever rebuilds. Since 2005, Spanish Springs is the winningest program in the state. The Cougars have racked up four regional titles in the last five years and three state crowns in the past four seasons.

Spanish Springs is the defending state champion after dumping Damonte Ranch for Nevada's large-school title last May. However, the Cougars were hurt by graduation last June as they graduated their entire infield and seven all-league players.

Still, you won't find sixth-year coach Jeff Davidson mired with melancholy.

"We have a lot of athletes on this team," he said. "We're going to have bumps in the road. I understand that. I think we have a great group of kids. We are very young but I am excited about them maturing and keeping the tradition going.

"From Day 1 in our offseason workouts, we've talked about the expectations of our program. We've explained to everyone trying out that we don't change the expectations. Every year we want to qualify for regionals and then the ultimate goal is to get to state and compete for another state title. Those goals are always the same."

Most softball fans around northern Nevada believe that the Cougars, despite graduating a lot of talent, still have as much talent as anyone in the state. If that's true, the Cougars may indeed have some bumps in the road early but could emerge as a deep playoff contender.

It will be hard for the Cougars, 33-1 in 2010, to put up the gaudy numbers of last year's state title winner. Last spring, Spanish Spring won its final 32 games in a row and its pitchers combined for 26 shutouts with 303 strikeouts against a miniscule eight walks in 196 innings pitched.

Additionally, the SSHS club outscored its foes by a 39-1 margin in regional and state tourney play a year ago. Spanish Springs showed plenty of offense during the 2010 season, hitting .466 as a team and winning each game by nearly a nine-run margin. The Cougars tallied 316 runs, while only allowing 18 on their magnificent run.

For the sake of this year's team, hopefully, it finds its own identity because it will be tough to replicate the numbers of last spring's squad.

"Two years ago, we had nine new players on varsity. This year we've got eight," Davidson said. "We are very young this year. They'll be tested, but I'm excited. I know we have a good group. We'll just have to keep working hard and go from there.

Senior Danica Arterburn looks to be the ace of the Cougars' pitching staff. The right-hander was the local team's No. 2 arm a year ago. After Arterburn, innings in the circle are up grabs. A group of pitchers that includes seniors Julianna Waller and Kaytlin Ripa, as well as sophomore Brett Lawrence, will likely compete for hurling chores behind Arterbrun.

Arterburn, Waller and Ripa, along with catcher Sydney Darby and outfielder Bella Rovens, are the five players who return for the Cougars off last season's championship club. Davidson said he'll lean heavily on that group to provide good leadership.

Each player on the Spanish Springs infield earned all-league honors last season and each of those student-athletes graduated. That leaves plenty of competition for starting jobs in the infield and in the lineup.

Junior Dani Smith, sophomores Lawrence and Kelsie Stroshine and freshmen Myrissa Prince, Bayley Broadwater, Kayla Arterburn and Alex Penrod are competing for those infield slots.

"Everyone knows that these first couple weeks, along with our scrimmage this weekend and the preseason tournament, are opportunities to step up and try to win a spot," Davidson said. "We have a lot of new kids on varsity that swing the bat really well. It's going to be fun to watch to see who emerges and steps up."

The early season weather is not doing much to help out local softball programs. Davidson admitted his team has gotten good work done inside, but added it's nearly impossible to get in any live hitting with fields topped with snow or still soaked with moisture.

"The weather here is almost predictable. If it's time to get the season going, then expect cold weather and snow," Davidson quipped. "It's just something we expect and deal with. You try to get your work done every single day, whether that's inside or out."

Spanish Springs begins the new season Thursday against Wooster in the three-day Sacramento preseason tournament.

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