PRESCOTT - Without a senior in sight, Angie Potts began her fourth season as head coach of the Waitsburg-Prescott combined softball team with modest goals.
But somewhere along the way, a rebuilding year morphed into something more. And on Friday, W-P will make its first appearance ever in the Washington Class 2B state fastpitch tournament at the Gateway Sports Complex in Yakima.
"We knew last year that when we lost a big group of seniors this would probably be more a rebuilding year for us," said Potts, who spent many seasons both as head coach and an assistant at Prescott - first slow-pitch and later fast-pitch - before the merger with Waitsburg came about in 2007.
"Our goal was to do as well as we could this year and then shoot for state next year," Potts said. "But things started to come together, and we all decided this was our year, too."
Waitsburg-Prescott takes an 11-11 overall record and the Southeast 2B District's No. 2 seed against Colfax in a first-round state game Friday at 9 a.m. W-P will meet either Oroville or Orcas Island later in the day, either in the championship quarterfinals or in the consolation bracket.
Potts doesn't have an in-depth scouting report on the Bulldogs, who are 18-3 on the season.
"We've followed their scores," she said. "It seems they have one primary pitcher that they use, but we don't really know what else to expect.
"We've played some other good teams where we've jumped on them early and they fall apart. We think if we focus on our defense and our offense, we'll be OK."
Potts has a pair of pitchers - junior Kasnira Grende and freshman Jennifer Nichols - ready for Friday's opener, but she hasn't decided who will get the start.
"Our pitching has been very consistent, especially with a freshman and a junior who didn't play last year," Potts said. "Who starts may depend on the weather. Kasnira tends to pitch better in colder weather, which is opposite of any other pitcher I have ever seen.
"Sometimes it's just a flip of the coin as to who starts. They are equally talented."
Sophomore right fielder Hailey Goenen, who boasts a batting average near .600 and an on-base percentage above .800 is W-P's leading hitter, Potts said. With juniors Alyssa Hafen in center field and Rachelle Oseth in right, Potts labels her outfield as one of the team's strengths along with junior catcher Megan Withers.
Potts is a 1988 Wa-Hi graduate and played for her father, Bud Bowman, who coached the Blue Devils softball program for 18 years before retiring in 1993.
After retiring, Bowman took over the softball program at Prescott where Potts began her coaching career as her father's assistant coach. Bowman was helping to develop Waitsburg-Prescott's middle-school softball program this spring when he unexpectedly died April 25 at the age of 76.
Potts couldn't put into words what impact her father's death has had on her team.
"I know that he coached some of the freshmen on this team last year, and I know that after he died, all of the girls started wearing ribbons in their hair with his badge number on them," she said, noting that her father also served part time for many years for the Walla Walla County Sheriff's Office.
"I don't know if it's motivation, but he is definitely still there. And at least for me, I know it is there."