There’s not really a turning point for Mount Baker softball’s Jordan Miles — a moment where everything started to click. It was more a gradual improvement from freshman contributor to sophomore standout.
After becoming a starter in the Mountaineers’ top-tier outfield last season, coach Ron Lepper had high expectations for the sophomore.
“She hasn’t disappointed,” Lepper said in a phone interview.
The now-center fielder is batting around .500 from the No. 2 spot in the lineup, combining a strong bat with great fielding ability and helping Mount Baker to its fourth straight Class 1A State Tournament appearance. The Mounties will take on Elma — who they faced in the state title game last year — on Friday, May 29, at Columbia Playfield in Richland.
While Miles is two years younger than the three seniors that bat around her — Lacey Postlewait bats first, Aleks Toivola hits No. 3 and Emily Yost plays cleanup — it’s hard to notice a difference in experience.
And that’s because Miles has been playing softball a long time and takes her craft seriously, Lepper said.
“She wants to be challenged,” Lepper said. “She got a chance for us at the plate last year and wanted to contribute. There wasn’t a lot of expectations coming in as a freshman. She was probably known more for her defense last year.”
That’s changed this season. Opponents know her bat is to be respected, as she can slap a single, hit in the gap for a double or drop down a bunt.
“It keeps the defense on their toes,” Lepper said.
The No. 2 spot provides a unique role for the batter and can change with whether or not the leadoff hitter gets on base. Postlewait frequently does and if so, Miles just has to move her to scoring position and hope the heart of Baker’s order can drive her home. If the leadoff doesn’t get on, Miles has to work to get on base herself.
“We all have our job in the batting lineup,” Miles said in a phone interview. “I’m very happy hitting No. 2.”
With two hitters as talented as Baker has at the top of the lineup, it’s rare Toivola and Yost don’t have somebody on base when they come up to the plate.
For Miles, improving at the plate came in having confidence in her swing — a new swing.
Two years ago, Miles switched from hitting right-handed to batting from the left — a move not uncommon in softball as quicker players try to get closer to first.
“On the left side, you’re a step and a half closer to first base,” Miles said. “If you have a stronger bat and have speed, it’s a good idea to do.”
The hardest part comes in relearning how to hit.
Miles explained that players are used to having their dominant hand on top when they swing. The dominant hand goes on bottom when the switch is made and pulling the ball becomes the most difficult to learn again.
“She’s worked hard to be a threat on the offensive part of the game,” Lepper said. “Between her and Lacey (Postlewait), they’ve done a good job at the plate for us.”
The continual growth of Miles should cast her into a leadership role next spring, when the three seniors depart, and while Lepper knows he won’t necessarily have a vocal leader with Miles, the team can learn plenty by the way she works.
First, though, Miles will try to help her team to another state title game, something she believes the Mounties have a good shot of doing.
“The bottom line is we just want to go over and compete,” Lepper said. “You never know how things will turn out but we have high expectations on ourselves to play to the best of our ability. ... It might feel great or it might hurt at the end of the state tournament, but if we can look back and know we did everything we could and put it out there, we can live with that.”