The Columbia High Bruins softball team had spectacular season a year ago and with nearly everyone returning this year, they’ll appear to be a top contender again in the WIAA Class 1A division.
Columbia was 12-2 in the Trico League in 2022 and finished 20-4 overall. The Bruins had a 2-2 postseason record in district and regional competition and fell one win short of qualifying for the state playoffs. In its final game last season, Columbia lost 5-2 to the Trico League Champion Castle Rock High Rockets in a regional playoff contest that guaranteed the winner a state playoff berth. Columbia took second place in the five-team Trico League standings behind Castle Rock (14-0).
The Bruins, guided by first-year head Coach Michelle Kock and assistant Coach Jesse Bryan, are hoping to achieve their goal and reach the state tournament this season. Bruin assistant coaches include Shaela Sauter and I’sis Solorzano.
“We had a very good season last year and with only losing one senior (Ella Wilson), we plan on having an even better season this year,” said Bryan, who was the Bruins’ head coach last season. “We have a lot of highly talented players. One reason we were so successful last year is due to the fact that a majority of the girls played in the summer league on the local Gorge Thunder squad.”
Columbia opened the season March 14 with a nonleague doubleheader at Goldendale High School (result was after the printed edition deadline). The Bruins play their first home game Friday at 3 p.m. versus the Washougal High Panthers at Columbia High in White Salmon. The Bruins begin their 15-game Trico League schedule April 11 with a doubleheader on the road against the Stevenson High Bulldogs.
The Bruins, who started practice Feb. 27, will be led by a strong group of six seniors that includes Sophia Acosta, Macee Barnes, Ella Reed, Maggie Bryan, Teagan Blankenship, and Sydney Aman. The six Bruin seniors each earned Trico all league awards last year. Bruin sophomores include Hailey Farrell, Grace Kennedy, Sheyenne Antis, Jenna Eccles, and Josie Dickey.
“We kind of came out of nowhere last season and we did very well,” said Bryan. “We’ll have another really strong team again this year, too. It’s going to be a real good year and I think we’ll be a contender for the league title again. Our intentions are to make Columbia High School softball a Trico League powerhouse team for many years to come and we are off to a real good start.”
There are seven freshmen and six eighth graders on the Bruins’ junior varsity squad. In a new rule that was introduced last year, the WIAA allows eighth graders to play on Class 1A high school teams. Columbia had five eighth graders who played on the varsity team last year. This year marks the first time ever in school history that Columbia has a JV team.
“One of the biggest factors for our team is fan support,” said Bryan. “We had huge crowds at home games last year. When people see that and see the atmosphere that Bruin softball creates, it makes the younger kids want to be a part of it. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes effort in getting kids involved in softball at a young age. Most of the girls in our area played in the Mt. Adams Little League and then moved up to play with the Gorge Thunder team, too.”
Last year marked the first softball season for Columbia since 2019 as they didn’t have a team in 2020 and 2021.