By JOHN McCALLUM
Managing Editor 

Lady Blackhawks return to state in record-setting year

 

January 3, 2019



By all accounts, the 2018 Cheney High School softball season was not only one to remember, but also one for the record books.

The Lady Blackhawks posted a 19-4 record, tied for the second most wins in head coach Gary Blake’s 15-years at the helm. They had the second-highest winning percentage during that tenure, .826; the third-highest team batting average, .388; with the pitching tandem of senior Madison Kallsen and freshman Shyla Courchaine earning the fourth-best earned run average of 3.47.

In the process, Cheney won its second Great Northern League regular season title in four years, and its fourth straight District 7 crown. The Lady Blackhawks got over a regional-playoff slump and advanced to the 2A state tournament — a primary goal Blake said — for the first time since 2012.

It was that experience in Selah that proved the only disappointment, if you can call making state a disappointment. Cheney was eliminated after two games, losing its opener to eventual state champion Woodland, 6-0, and bowing out with a 10-6 consolation-round loss to Sedro Woolley.


“It was a good year,” Blake said in a June 14 Cheney Free Press story. “I think they should be proud of where they ended up.”

Meghan Krantz holds the highest career batting average of any player in Blake’s 15-year tenure at Cheney, .565. The Benedictine College-bound senior also holds career records for home runs (33), runs batted in (158), as well as season records for batting average (.615), home runs (12) and RBIs (53) —all set in 2017.

Kallsen has battled health problems and injuries for most of her career — with the exception of her senior campaign where she was medical-issue-free and outstanding in the pitching circle. Blake said as a freshman, her second-year pitching, she posted an ERA of 7.46. By the end of 2017, she had that down to 5.93, but in 2018, halved it to 2.79 — earning her an All-League first-team selection.

She also leaves with a career batting average of .493.

Blake hopes to return the other nine players on this year’s varsity roster. That group, sophomore Logan Krantz, freshmen Courchaine, Kyla Olson, Lindsey Hagreen and Alexis Mitchell and juniors Courtney Hanson, Maria Guglielmo, Shelby Melton and Allyson Dassow, will have something recent Cheney teams did not — state tournament experience.

Logan Krantz, Melton and Olson are All-League selections, with Olson Cheney’s leading hitter in league play with a .583 batting average.

Blake also said he has several other good freshmen waiting in the wings, along with more sophomores and juniors who benefited from the program’s third consecutive year of fielding not only a junior varsity but also a freshman squad. The one area the team needs to improve in is fielding, where Cheney posted a .915 percentage in 2018.


It’s a far cry from Blake’s first year in 2004 where none of his players had played club ball — which showed in their sub-.200 batting average and 11 walks per game. But as with those first teams, the veteran head coach believes last year’s return to state will pay dividends in the seasons to come.

“Success feeds on itself,” Blake said. “Young kids in elementary and middle school see the success of the high school and aspire to be like that.”

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

 

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