Pleasant Hill, Sports Zone

Billies softball returns plenty of firepower to defend MVC

PLEASANT HILL – The Pleasant Hill Billies softball team is off to a fast start this season after opening Mountain Valley Conference (MVC) play with a 10-0, six-inning mercy rule win over Harrisburg last Tuesday. The win was a major one despite how early in the season it is for one key reason: Pleasant Hill or Harrisburg have been the MVC champions each of the past four seasons, so getting a leg up on Harrisburg gives the Billies some early season momentum.

“We want to win league, you know, we want to go in as the No. 1 seed from our league, get a home game, and get a bye,” Pleasant Hill coach Steve Williams said. “They’re a good, quality club, with good coaching and good players. So it’s weird having them this early, but it’s also good for us, because now we have all this confidence.”

The Billies, ranked No. 4 in the preseason poll, took down preseason No. 7 Harrisburg behind 8 runs in the first two innings. Senior Karley Bloxham led the way with 6 innings pitched, 7 Ks, and 1 hit allowed on the mound, while also adding 3 hits, 2 runs and 4 RBI on offense. 

“(Karley)’s just that stoic kid as far as, like, not a lot rattles her. You don’t get that rollercoaster ride with her. She’s just so consistent, and you always know you’re gonna get 100% out of her,” Williams said. “She hit nine for us last year. She was that restart-the-order kid, and if you’re not hitting one or two, I usually like you in the nine. Moving her to the three spot is a huge expectation, but it doesn’t faze her. She’s just mature and handles it.”

Pleasant Hill senior pitcher Karley Bloxham throws one of her 62 pitches during the team’s 10-0 win against Harrisburg.

Freshman Sari Strinz had 3 hits and 3 runs in the win, and Raigan Obie, a 2nd-team all-state infielder last year, chipped in 2 hits and 2 runs. Obie batted .586 a season ago and is batting .727 through three games – all three double-digit Pleasant Hill wins.

“We have been working on having a better plan at the plate, knowing what our pitches are, and being very, very aggressive on good pitches early in the count so we don’t get behind,” Williams said. “Good pitchers will take advantage of that, and we saw that a few times toward the end when we got more complacent at the plate.”

The teams were scheduled to play a doubleheader Friday, but it was postponed due to weather, giving Pleasant Hill the chance to play Harrisburg later in the season, the way Williams wants it. Pleasant Hill is the defending MVC champs after going 21-6 overall and 16-2 in league play in Williams’ first year at the helm, but the Billies lost three key seniors in Shyanne Fenley, Chelsea McAllister, and Kiley Campos.

“The hardest thing (to replace) is just the maturity of those three. Being seniors, obviously, but also having played a lot of softball. Not only club softball, but high school softball, which is a different animal,” Williams said.

While replacing Fenley, McAllister, and Campos on offense will be no easy task, Williams can take solace in knowing he didn’t lose any pitching from last year’s team. Both Bloxham, 3rd-team all-state in 2022 and 2nd-team all-league last season, and senior Bella Black return after solid years on the mound.

“It’ll be huge, especially with these three-game series and doubleheaders. We can go to a fresh arm in those doubleheaders, especially if we can get something similar to what we got out of Kar today,” Williams said, noting that the Billies have two solid freshman pitchers in Sari Strinz and Acadia Bloxham as well. “I don’t know of many teams that have four experienced pitchers at this 3A level, so we’re really looking forward to this season with that.”

Black, a 3rd-team all-state pitcher last year who had 101 Ks in 83 innings, only recently got medically cleared to play after preseason health issues, and Williams said Black will likely be batting fourth this season. A fully healthy Pleasant Hill team with two returning pitchers and impactful freshmen? That’s a dangerous opponent for any team.

“We’ve talked to them about how we have a lot of depth. We don’t have to ride on one pitcher striking out 15 batters, or one person hitting two home runs and seven RBI,” Williams said. 

“We’ll just take the win today, and the confidence, and just keep building tomorrow at practice. We’re gonna challenge the girls to come back stronger every day,” he said.



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