Walla Walla University starts softball season on positive note

The young WWU squad goes 3-1 on the opening weekend, and brings an enthusiastic attitude to the new season.

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COLLEGE PLACE - For Walla Walla University softball coach Mike Jimenez, the first weekend of the new season was an eye opener.

The Wolves hit the road and handed the University of Idaho's club team a pair of losses, 15-5 and 16-3.

On Sunday, WWU hosted Eastern Washington University's club team, and after dropping a 6-1 decision the Wolves rallied for a 7-4 victory in the nightcap.

"It was an interesting weekend," Jimenez said. "At the University of Idaho, we were able to hit really well. At home, the (EWU) pitching was very comparable to what we saw Saturday night, and the bats were flat. We looked like a totally different team. But we were able to split (on Sunday), so I'll take that."

Jimenez leads a young Wolves squad into the spring.

"We're young," he said. "Half of our team are freshmen, with a few juniors and seniors. We lack experience."

One WWU leader is senior Marianne Quaile, who racked up five hits in Saturday's two victories, and came up with clutch safeties in Sunday's nightcap to help the Wolves secure the split.

"She just hit the ball really hard both days," Jimenez said. "She had a clutch hit in the second game (against EWU) to get the extra runs we needed."

The Wolves are missing Wa-Hi graduate Vanessa Wyckoff, who was slated to catch. Wyckoff suffered a shoulder injury during fall ball and is out.

"She was going to be big for us," Jimenez said.

Mackenzie Jones filled in behind the plate over the weekend, but suffered a concussion herself on Sunday.

Aside from the challenges, Jimenez said he's encouraged by the enthusiasm the Wolves players bring to the field.

"It will be interesting to see what will happen," he said. "I'm eager for the season. They girls are wanting to be out there on the softball field. They're excited to be out there and wanting to play.

"They get along so well, I really feel like there's not going to be drama," Jimenez said. "They really enjoy being around each other. They're positive and bring an encouraging attitude. That's big for a lot of teams. I'm hoping we build on that and go from there."

Jimenez said one of the strengths of his young team is its resilience, which was evident over the weekend.

"The first two games went our way, but Sunday in the first game it wasn't the prettiest game for us," he said. "To come back in the second game and play better (was good). They're willing to take constructive criticism, take it to heart and run with it. They're wanting to improve, and not give up."

The Wolves, who finished right around .500 last season, Jimenez said, next travel to play Boise State's club team March 15.

Saturday's First Game

WWU 001 710 6 - 15 18 NA

Idaho 011 010 2 - 5 7 NA

Hits - WWU: Au. Iwasa 2, An. Iwasa 3, Hernandez 4, Jones 4, Quaile 2, Garcia 2, Shankel. Idaho: Sanders, Rush, McDaniel, Blea 2, Druffel 2.

Saturday's Second Game

WWU 146 500 0 - 16 16 NA

Idaho 030 000 0 - 3 4 NA

Hits - WWU: Au. Iwasa 2, Hernandez 3, Jones 3, Quaile 3, Lambert 2, Garcia, Shankel 2.

Sunday's First Game

EWU 011 111 1 - 6 11 NA

WWU 100 000 0 - 1 6 NA

Hits - EWU: Macklin, Booher 2, Vanderhoogt, Cook, Ruth, Charlton 2, Hill 2, Graham. WWU: Wilson, Au. Iwasa, An. Iwasa, Hernandez, Lambert, Shankel.

Sunday's Second Game

EWU 000 000 4 - 4 10 NA

WWU 012 031 x - 7 8 NA

Hits - EWU: Booher, Vanderhoogt, Ruth, Cram, Charlton, Hill 3, Graham, Lomas. WWU: Wilson, Au. Iwasa, An. Iwasa 2, Quaile 2, Shankel 2.

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