Vale's Sierra Cleaver goes to make a play at second base during a non-league game against Homedale Monday. Homedale defeated the Vikings 16-2. (The Enterprise/Pat Caldwell).

VALE – The Vale High School softball team hit the ground running Monday in its first non-league game of the season against Homedale, after barely a week of practice.

Less than eight days ago, many of the Lady Viks softball athletes were still processing a five-day state basketball tourney stint.

“Of course, I’d like more practice time, but it is what it is. When other sports do well, which you want them to do, you don’t get the girls,” said Cirbi Morrison, Vale softball coach.

The fast start aside, Morrison has every reason to be confident about the 2019 edition of the Lady Viking softball team.

The Vikings start the season with nine returning starters from a team that finished 6-2 in 2018 and reached a first-round state playoff game against Enterprise/Joseph/Wallowa. The Vikings lost that game 9-5 to end their season.

“All my returners contributed last year in some way,” said Morrison.

Highlighting the returners for Vale are seniors Gracee Jacobs, Isabella Sigrah, and Sydnee Thomas, along with junior Sierra Cleaver.

Morrison said while those four will provide a solid core of experience, there are a number of underclassmen who could play key roles.

“We have a lot of underclassmen – some gems – and we will see how they develop,” said Morrison.

Jacobs, a standout player from last year, ended the 2018 season with an above .500 batting average. This fall, she is heading to Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, where she will play softball.

Morrison, who steps into former coach Darin Johnson’s slot at the Viking helm, said she’s excited about the season.

“Our league is fairly competitive, so we have to show up and play every game,” said Morrison.

Morrison expects Enterprise/Joseph/Wallowa to be one of the better teams in the Eastern Oregon League this season.

“They’re always tough,” she said, adding “Nyssa always shows up to play us and Burns is improving.”

The only wild card, she said, is Irrigon.

“I have never played against them, so I don’t know what to expect,” said Morrison.

So far, she is pleased with what she’s seeing at practice.

“You just never know what they are going to give you but they all have really good attitudes,” said Morrison.

Meanwhile across the county in Adrian, the Antelopes softball team will join the Oregon School Activities Association and compete in the 2A/1A Special District Six.

“We’ve been playing independently for the last 4 to 5 years in Idaho,” said softball coach Bill Wortman.

The Antelopes play a non-league scrimmage Thursday against Greenleaf at 4:30 p.m. in Adrian.

“We’re playing in a really tough league this season. We’re just going to try out best and see where we are at,” said Wortman. 

Reporter Pat Caldwell: pat@malheurenterprise.com or 541-473-3377.

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