PORTLAND — Facing another difficult draw but blessed with more punch than a year ago, the Grays Harbor College softball team will make its second straight NWAACC Tournament appearance on Friday.
The Chokers (17-20) will face talented second-seeded Wenatchee Valley (40-5) in a tournament opener scheduled for 9:30 a.m. at Delta Park in Portland.
Win or lose, GHC plays a second game Friday. The double-elimination tournament runs through Sunday.
The Chokers were the 16th and final seed when they ended a long NWAACC Tourney drought last season. This year, they’re rated only slightly higher by the tournament committee (15th), but possess more formidable credentials.
Grays Harbor coach Tom Sutera said four clubs in the 16-team field are regarded as the tourney’s elite.
“Everybody else, if we play our best ball, we think we can compete with them,” Sutera said.
Unfortunately for the Chokers, Sutera notes, Wenatchee Valley figures to be among the top four.
The Knights boast perhaps the NWACC’s premier pitcher in Hailey Bator, who possesses an 0.64 earned run average and is bound for the University of Washington next year. Wenatchee Valley beat GHC in the opening round of the NWAACC Tourney last year.
The Chokers aren’t without weapons of their own They rank sixth in the conference in home runs.
Grays Harbor’s Amanda Anderson enters the tourney batting .517, with 14 home runs and 56 runs batted in. She ranks second (or, in home runs, tied for second) in all three categories.
Teammate Shannon Glenn is batting .400, with 10 homers, while Choker catcher Jasmine Gilmore is hitting .410, with eight homers and 42 RBIs. Choker leadoff batter Erica Rydman is tied for second in stolen bases with 25.
Grays Harbor sophomore pitcher Jill Johnson leads the NWAACC in strikeouts with 239 and has registered 15 of her team’s wins.
Bolstering an erratic defense is one of Sutera’s goals.
“We have to limit the chances we give them,” the Choker coach said. “We have to play pretty good defense to stay with a team like Wenatchee.”