Rare athletes like 2017’s Player of the Year Maddie Morgan don’t come around that often, and it can be difficult for teams to replace them once they graduate. Such is the task for the 2018 Lynnwood Royals softball team as this season’s campaign begins.
Now playing for the 12th ranked Alabama Crimson Tide, Morgan, along with first-team All-Wesco first baseman Mackenzie Johnson, represent a significant loss of talent for the Royals and head coach Sarah Hall.
“We miss those players, but it’s been really fun to see girls step up and have this voice that we didn’t know they had, because we had such a strong voice in Maddie, so it’s been a blast to see these young women step up,” Hall said.
When discussing key returners for the Lady Royals, the conversations begins and ends with Mayda Rieflin, who was a second-team All-Wesco 3A South pitcher last season. Now, she will look to anchor Lynnwood inside the circle for her senior season.
Beyond Rieflin, Hall expects Junior Abby Young to be a key contributor. She’ll play shortstop as well as pitch.
“She’s got an incredible arm and is really aggressive at the plate. She should have an amazing year,” Hall said.
The Royals began their season with a 15-20 loss to Kamiak on Tuesday night, but Hall was all smiles after that game.
“No matter what, whether Kamiak was up, we were up, tied, our girls were so even keel through the whole thing,” she said. “Instead of letting those things affect them, they were so level headed and had a positive mentality through the whole thing. They were excited about seeing that in themselves too. I think they had a lot of fun playing together next to their friends.”
When your team gives up twenty runs to an opponent, a coach could very well take pause where their pitcher is concerned, but Hall heaped praise on Rieflin.
“I’m so proud of her,” Hall said. “She did just a good job last night. She pushed herself and did a good job of maintaining her composure. She did great. A real positive influence on out team.”
As for the season outlook, she thinks that this young team with just three seniors will surprise some Wesco foes and be more competitive as a whole.
“I think we’ll hang in games better this year. I think we’ll surprise some people and give them a run for their money. It’s not going to be the shutouts or the 10-run after five with us this year,” Hall added.
Lynnwood’s next game will be Friday night March 16 at Monroe as they take on the Bearcats at 6 p.m. Their next home game will be Tuesday, March 20 as they host the Cascade Bruins at 4 p.m.
–Story and photos by Scott Williams