Conventional thinking suggests Lynden Christian’s softball team is at a major disadvantage.
In today’s age of sports specialization, the Lyncs largely reject the en vogue approach.
LC is filled with multi-sport athletes. It has some that play volleyball, basketball or soccer. And they are young. Lynden Christian starts six sophomores and three juniors.
Coach Mitch Moorlag doesn’t have the luxury of working with players who compete year-round on traveling select teams.
But what the LC coach has is a talented group of gifted athletes who know how to win and love to compete.
“They are so competitive in every single thing they do,” Moorlag said. “They want me to develop the drill where competition is involved into it, because they want to be the winner of that competition and compete within themselves.”
That’s one thing this young group of LC players certainly are — winners.
Emmalee Bailey, Avery Dykstra and Riley Van Hulzen already have won state championships in volleyball and basketball this season, and Kelsie Otter (volleyball), Sam Van Loo (basketball) and Ellie Vander Veen (basketball) have won state titles, too.
The Lyncs (16-6) have achieved plenty this spring, already doubling last year’s win total of eight, but now they turn to the Class 1A State Tournament, where LC opens against undefeated La Center at noon Friday, May 27, at Columbia Playfields in Richland.
“I think for a lot of us multi-sport athletes its different,” Van Loo explained. “We can’t focus quite as much on other sports, but we give it our all when its the one season. Everyone asks for more hitting, and we make the most of the opportunities that we do have.”
While Lynden Christian qualified for state three times (2014, 2012, 2010) in the past seven years, this year’s team is arguably the most impressive. It certainly has the most wins to show for it.
Moorlag knew he’d have a skilled team. Many players played last year but didn’t have enough experience. The coach, however, didn’t know how good the Lyncs good be.
He got a strong indicator the first game of the year when Lynden Christian earned a 2-1 nonleague win over Sehome (18-5).
The one run the Mariners scored was their lowest output of the year, and strong pitching, headlined by Van Loo, and strong defense became a hallmark trait.
Lynden Christian’s 3.6 runs allowed per game is the best mark in the Northwest Conference. Last year LC allowed an average of 8.2 runs.
“A big part of (the turnaround) is they really bought into what position and what gifts they have for each of those positions,” Moorlag said.
Moving Vander Veen, last year’s shortstop, to center field and putting Dykstra at short is a prime example of Lynden Christian making the most out of its players’ skill sets.
Moorlag raved about Vander Veen’s range and ability to get a good jump on fly balls, and Dykstra is an extremely talented middle infielder.
Van Loo’s ability to moved into the starting pitching role also has been paramount. She threw minimal innings last year but has started all 22 of LC’s game.
She isn’t a big strikeout pitcher, but Van Loo limits her walks and owns a 2.40 ERA.
“Last year we didn’t have very many pitchers, so I knew it was going to be my responsibility,” Van Loo said. “I did pitching lessons and stuff to try to get better. Having a great defense behind me has helped me succeed, and they have my back.”
While Lynden Christian is enjoying this postseason run, the Lyncs have proved with their young roster they’ll be a force in the years to come.
Softball State Tournament
Lynden vs. Port Angeles
When: 10 a.m. Friday, May 27
Where: Carlon Park in Selah
Colville vs. Nooksack Valley
When: 10 a.m. Friday, May 27
Lynden Christian vs. La Center
When: Noon Friday, May 27
Where: Columbia Playfield in Richland