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Prep softball: W.F. West using 'unfinished business' motto as motivation with young group

Mar. 9—Consider it a grand reveal of the motto for W.F. West High School's softball team.

All it encompasses are two words and five syllables. It is something that has been bubbling since May of 2023.

The Bearcats have unfinished business this season.

"It is under the surface, but it is like a volcano under water that is about ready to explode," coach Kevin Zylstra said. "We're chomping at the bit."

Losing 8-7 to Aberdeen in an elimination game in the district tournament last year ended a long streak of consecutive state tournament berths and was the final game for seven seniors, five of them starters.

Everyone that was returning this spring felt the weight of that moment.

"It is a tough thing, everything about it was tough," Avalon Myers said. "You never know what is going to happen. We (have) to work harder to (get to) state."

W.F. West will seemingly make a 180 this season, going from one of the most experienced teams in the Evergreen Conference to a young team. Still, the expectations remain the same.

Early-season hiccups? Not on the Bearcats' watch.

"We're all just learning and I don't foresee us having too many big ones," senior Lena Fragner said.

What keeps Zylstra's mind at ease is Myers and Fragner both donning the white and maroon once again.

Fragner and Myers — a junior — were first-team all-conference honorees last season. Fragner, coming off her fourth straight trip to state in basketball, believes this group has the pieces to make last year a blip on the radar.

"It was heartbreaking, but it helps us come into this season a lot hungrier," Fragner said. "It represents our program. We come and do our best every single day."

Returning all-conference pitcher Ella Young is one of five options Zylstra said he has at his disposal for options in the circle. Young didn't pitch during Friday's Jamboree held at Recreation Park.

Zylstra did say it is the most depth he's had in terms of arms in recent memory.

"I'm excited to use all five arms," he said.

W.F. West was disciplined at the plate in its three-inning win over R.A. Long, drawing a handful of walks that led to a 12-0 rout. The Bearcats plated half their runs in the first inning.

A pair of home runs aided Mark Morris to a 7-1 victory over W.F. West in the second three-inning game of the night.

The offense was a beneficiary to W.F. West's success last year, averaging 9.5 runs per game. Two handfuls of games featured breakouts of double digits and twice did the Bearcats go over 20 runs.

"Offense is really important with all the good pitchers that we have in our league," Avalon said. "I don't see any issue this year; I don't see any holes."

W.F. West believes it has the ability to stack up with the rest of the Evergreen Conference. Usually one of the deepest leagues in 2A, this spring appears to be the same script.

Fragner, a four-year starter and the Bearcats' leadoff hitter, still is amazed how the conference keeps a stranglehold as one of the best in the classification.

"It is fun to play," Fragner said. "We get that competition early on."