On the day of the first Grant Union/Dayville/Prairie City softball practice, head coach DeAnna Nash, a Grant Union science teacher, said several students she passed in the halls expressed their excitement.
“They couldn’t wait to go to practice,” Nash said. “I heard from about 10 kids — and that was at school on a Friday.”
The Prospector team is kicking off the season with 23 players for the junior varsity and varsity teams.
“We have some returning kids,” the coach said. “Ravyn (Walker) at short stop, all the pitchers are back, Bri (Zweygardt) catching and Hailie Wright catching, too.”
Other returning starters are Mariah Moulton, Cody Jo Madden, Natalie Stearns and Whitney McClellan.
“We have a ton of experience,” Nash said. “Overall, this is probably our hardest working group. They have a great work ethic and tremendous attitude. Several stay after practice and are working hard. A lot of kids are pushing hard for positions, which makes them all better.”
Although they are a 2A level size, the Prospectors will again play 3A.
Their opponents in the 3A Special District 2 include Burns, Elgin/Imbler, Enterprise/Joseph/Wallowa, Nyssa and Vale.
“Softball on the east side of the state is always competitive,” Nash said. “Vale is always at the top of the league. We get (a game with) them at home, so that’s nice.”
She said the 3A level is a better fit for them, since they know the coaches, teams and fields.
“We were making sure we could go 15 deep with varsity,” she said. “It’s going to be competitive, and they enjoy it.”
She said right now the coaches are focusing on team unity and making sure the athletes are being pushed hard enough.
“We really don’t have to push them,” she said. “They want to work hard. They’re really a fun group to be around every day.”
Among their goals, Nash said: “Obviously, we’re looking to win league, and our goal in every game is to be competitive, working hard every day.”
Nash has led the team since it began in 2006, and this year, her assistant coaches are Monty Nash, Les DeHaven, Kennedy Nash and Dominic DeHaven.
Three of the six seniors have several years of experience playing softball, including Natalie Stearns, Dauna Bishop and Ravyn Walker.
“Even though it’s early in the season, we work well together,” Stearns said. “We have lots of potential, so I’m excited to see what our team brings.”
Bishop said she likes the amount of experience there is on the team.
“We all bond really well together,” she said.
Walker said, “One of our goals is being league champions this year. I think it’s going to be really fun.”
Hailey Carter, who’s played softball for four years now, said she’s looking forward to the season.
“There are a lot of experience levels, but that’s what makes it fun,” she said.
Third-year player Jessica Carter said that even though they’ve only been at practice for a couple weeks, the team is like a family.
“I’m really looking forward to how close we’ll get,” she said, adding they have opportunities to spend time together on road trips.
This is Myckee Coalwell’s first year playing, and she said she’s enjoyed the first week of practice.
“I feel accepted as part of the team,” she said.
Grant Union/Dayville/Prairie City softball schedule
Friday, March 17 @ Union/Cove in La Grande at 12 p.m. (1)
Saturday, March 18 vs. Lakeview at 12 p.m. (2)
Friday, March 24 @ Culver at 2 p.m. (2)
Tuesday, March 28 @ Riverside Invitational at 11 a.m. (2)
Wednesday, March 29 @ Riverside Invitation at 1 p.m. (2)
Friday, April 7 @ Heppner at 12 p.m. (2)
Friday, April 14 vs. Nyssa at 1 p.m. (2) (MT)
Saturday, April 15 vs. Echo/Stanfield at 1 p.m. (2)
Friday, April 21 @ Vale at 1 p.m. (2) (MT)
Friday, April 28 @ Burns at 1 p.m. (2)
Friday, May 5 vs. Elgin/Imbler at 1 p.m. (2)
Friday May 12 @ Enterprise/Joseph/Wallowa in Enterprise at 1 p.m. (2)
WEdnesday, May 17, District Playoff, TBD
Thursday, May 25, playoff first round, TBD
Friday, May 26, playoff quarterfinal round, TBD
Tuesday, May 30, playoff semifinal round, TBD
Friday, June 2, playoff final round, TBD