By Bill Choy
The Del Norte High junior varsity softball team is back on the field this year after a long hiatus.
The JV squad opened the season last weekend at a tournament in Arcata, going 2-1 and placing third. The team plays its first home games this weekend with a doubleheader against Arcata starting at 11 a.m. Saturday.
JV head coach Delores Markussen said it has "been a while" since a JV softball team was at the school. She believes it has been about six years or so since a team was fielded.
"We need this as a feeder to the varsity team," she said. "It's ideal for us us to have the girl's learn our system in JV so they are prepared when they reach the varsity level."
Freshman Sarah Weiser is a pitcher for the squad and pitched in the Warriors first three games of the season.
She has appreciated being able to be part of the JV squad and gain invaluable experience on what it takes to play softball in high school.
"It's tough," she said. "A lot more people can hit well than last year... It's been great. It's given me an opportunity to play."
Markussen, the assistant coach for the varsity squad, said before the JV team, many freshman and sophomore girls were either cut or sat on the bench on the varsity level.
In the first few years Markussen and head varsity coach Jackie Heuberger ran the softball program, they tried to restart the JV program, but could not find enough interest.
This past year they got the word out around the community and received a fair amount of interest.
Currently, 14 girls are on the team, which is a perfect number, Markussen said.
"It doesn't leave many girls on the bench," she said.
Freshman Lindsey Olson plays catcher and said she has enjoyed her JV experience.
Without a JV program she said she would not be gaining the on- the-field experience she has had.
"It's been a lot of fun," Olson said. "I like that there are more chances to play and get better."
The team started practicing the first of February.
It took time for the girls to get used to playing high school softball and learn the system, with the typical growing pains.
But the team persevered and have gradually improved, Markussen said.
That was in evidence in their first game of the season last weekend, when they defeated Willits 13-8.
Being a young, inexperienced team, the next game did not go as well, with Eureka crushing them 17-2.
The Warriors bounced back and downed Fort Bragg 9-2.
"They have come so far," Markussen said. "These girls have been like sponges and have soaked up what we have told them."
The girls have also showed a good amount of patience and discipline at the plate, which is not always the case with such a young team. She said this bodes well for the team this season.
Helping Markussen as assistant JV coach is a familiar face to Warrior softball fans in McKinnze Holden, who was a starting pitcher on the varsity team last year
Markussen said her experience has been invaluable and she has done a great job with the team's pitchers. And having also played several positions like outfield and shortstop she can help the other girls on the team as well.
Markussen has also been assisted by volunteers, including Ray Rook, a parent of one of the girls, and Gene Mitchell, who previously coached the JV baseball team.