Coming out throughout the end of the week will be capsules breaking down each of the five Whatcom County schools that made their respective state tournaments, and their opponents, as well. In each capsule is a “player to watch,” but I chose somewhat obvious girls that have proven to be incredibly important to their teams’ overall success.For the sake of fun, here are five under-the-radar players – one from each team – that could make a major impact.
1. Collette Brown (Ferndale; Sr., infielder): Brown is the lone senior on Ferndale’s roster, and while nobody has state experience given its Ferndale’s first trip to the tournament, she’s the most seasoned of the group. She’s a strong hitter who also plays well in the infield for coach Holly Hilton, and Hilton will need her senior to be a leader now more than ever.
2. Heidi Chambers (Mount Baker; Sr., infielder): Coach Ron Lepper has some studs in the heart of his lineup in Emma Lallas, Aleks Toivola, Emily Brandland and Emily Yost, but Chambers is a solid presence down lower in the order that simply does her job. She had a big triple in the Mountaineers’ 8-7 extra-inning loss to Seattle Academy in the tri-district championship game, but if she can continue to help turn the lineup over to the likes of those four, Mount Baker is going to be a difficult offensive group to face.
3. Jenah Korthuis (Lynden Christian; Jr., centerfield): Like Heidi Chambers in Mount Baker’s lineup, Korthuis gets lost behind the likes of Kasey Luna and Lexi and Livi Vander Griend, but she’s just as important to the Lyncs’ overall success. She plays a sound centerfield and rarely lets anything get behind her, but where she really excels is at the plate. If she puts together more 3-for-3 days like she did against Coupeville in tri-districts, Lynden Christian coach Mitch Moorlag has to like his chances to at least contend in the first round.
4. Cassidy Zylstra (Nooksack Valley; So., utility): Zylstra is coming around offensively like most of Nooksack Valley. Her two-hit performance, which including a double, against Blaine helped the team jump out to an early lead and earn yet another state tournament berth. Chloe Gardner, Lindsay Hayes, Brianne Turner and Kayla Struiksma are the leading hitters for this team, but if Zylstra continues to hit for coach Tom Harmon, that lineup all of the sudden looks a whole lot scarier.
5. Elisa Kooiman (Lynden; Fr., shortstop): Kooiman has made quite the name for herself with a strong state basketball tournament, but she’s showing she’s more than a one-sport athlete. She hits near the bottom of the lineup for coach Steve Petersen, so it’s her responsibility to turn the lineup to a powerful group of hitters in Mandy Warner, Trisha Snydar, Tanna Benson and Hannah Rothwell. Also, shortstop is a position reliant on someone strong with the glove, so her ability to hold down that spot as a freshman says much about her defensive capabilities. That’s just as important as her performance at the plate.