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Crater's Bittle, Arnold reap top SOC honors

Crater cemented its status as the Southern Oregon Conference's elite softball team by dominating the all-league voting.

The Comets, undefeated in the regular season, landed the player and coach of the year and had a league-high five players on the first team in voting by the league coaches.

Senior pitcher Jenni Bittle was chosen the top player, the first time for a Comet since Susie Meunier earned it in 1989.

It really was a special year for us, said third-year Crater's Chris Arnold, the top coach. It was just a great group of girls.

Bittle capped her four-year varsity career with an astonishing 17-0 record as a senior. She was 7-0 in SOC play to go with a league-high 85 strikeouts and a 0.14 ERA in 51 innings.

On the season, Bittle fanned a school-record 172 batters in 106 innings.

The progress she made between her junior and senior seasons was a huge step, said Arnold. This year she made a special effort to work twice as hard.

The results this season were something she was definitely shooting for.

Bittle struck out 105 batters last season ' then the school record ' and led the Comets to the state playoffs but wasn't satisfied after her team made a quick exit.

I knew that it was my senior season, and I knew I had to step it up, she said. I worked really hard in the off-season. It's nice to see the hard work pay off. But I couldn't have done it without my teammates.

The second half of Crater's dynamic pitching duo, Janelle Cristofaro, also made the first team, as did teammates Justine Bettencourt (catcher), Tyler Sutherland (shortstop) and Allesha Spradling (center field).

Bettencourt, who will graduate from Crater a year early, was a key to both the Comets' offensive and pitching success. The junior backstop batted .362 with 14 RBIs.

Spradling batted leadoff and boasted a .388 average with only one strikeout, while Sutherland drove in 11 runs and scored nine times.

Cristofaro, who was fire to Bittle's ice in mound persona, went 7-0 and whiffed 79 in conference play. Even more impressively, the junior didn't allow an earned run in 49 innings.

Janelle is a fierce competitor, said Arnold. She and Jenni balance each other out so well.

The Comets, who last owned a piece of the SOC crown in 1993, ended more than a decade's worth of frustration. They climbed to a No. 2 state ranking before losing in the state playoffs in the second round.

It was an amazing season, said Bittle. No one really expected us to do what we did. We just had a really great team this year.

Both South Medford and North Medford were well-represented with three first-teamers apiece.

The SOC runner-up Panthers placed pitcher Jen Mendenhall, last year's player of the year, on the first team, along with catcher Simone Hubbard and infielder Jackie Chaplin.

Mendenhall notched four wins in SOC play with an .875 ERA and 56 strikeouts in 56 innings.

Hubbard, who moved into the starting lineup when Alex Jordahl went down with an injury before the season, had a solid sophomore campaign. She batted .395 (15-for-38) and struck out only six times in 14 games.

Chaplin, a 2003 first-team all-stater, boasted a .348 batting average with five stolen bases. The junior also posted a .966 fielding percentage at third base.

North Medford catcher Stephanie Haskett was near the top of the SOC in hitting (.417 average) and slugging percentage (.698). The junior also scored nine runs and drove in 11.

Senior shortstop Darcy Cordell drove in 12 runs to go with a .375 batting average while striking out only two times.

Darcy's been our rock at shortstop, said North coach Brent Barry. She makes all the routine plays and turns in incredible plays, too.

Junior right fielder Deni Rowley, a first-team all-state selection last season, batted .412 and boasted a first-team leading .544 on base percentage.

Rowley, who hit in the No. 2 slot, swiped six bases and didn't strike out once during conference play.

Roseburg's Ali Paz and Denay Martin represented the Indians on the first team.

Paz, who was a first-team all-SOC member last season as a freshman, hit .395, drove in seven runs and fanned just once during SOC play.

Martin (center field) stole nine bases and hit .399.

Juniors Jamie Torgerson (outfield) and Justine Cerda (infield) of Grants Pass, and Klamath Union's Bess Fagan (utility/designated hitter) rounded out the first team.

Torgerson had seven RBIs and batted .342, while Cerda hit .348 with eight RBIs, and Fagan sported a .351 batting average with a .466 on-base average.

SOC Softball All-Conference

FIRST TEAM

PlayerPos.TeamYr.

Jenni BittlePCraterSr.

Janelle CristofaroPCraterJr.

Jen MendenhallPS. MedfordJr.

Stephanie HaskettCN. MedfordJr.

Justine BettencourtCCraterJr.

Simone HubbardCS. MedfordSo.

Darcy CordellIFN. MedfordSr.

Jackie ChaplinIFS. MedfordJr.

Ali PazIFRoseburgSo.

Justine CerdaIFGrants PassJr.

Tyler SutherlandIFCraterJr.

Deni RowleyOFN. MedfordJr.

Allesha SpradlingOFCraterSr.

Denay MartinOFRoseburgJr.

Jamie TorgersonOFGrants PassJr.

Bess FaganUTKlamathSr.

Player of the Year '

Jenni Bittle, Crater

Coach of the Year '

Chris Arnold, Crater

SECOND TEAM

PlayerPos.TeamYr.

Kim PoseyPRoseburgJr.

Kelsey HeiderPEagle PointJr.

Jill JeterPS. MedfordSo.

Kristin CroxfordCKlamathJr.

Karyne SanderCGrants PassSr.

Katie KaufmanIFS. MedfordSr.

Brandi CamposIFRoseburgFr.

Aimee JeskaIFAshlandSr.

Staci BauerIFCraterJr.

Johanna DeGrootIFKlamathSr.

Rachelle WilldenIFN. MedfordJr.

Bailey HastyOFAshlandSo.

Kristin DavidsonOFCraterSo.

Kristina BatemanOFEagle PointSr.

Bethany StouslandOFS. MedfordJr.

Mallorie HooverUTN. MedfordJr.

HONORABLE MENTION

Pitchers '

Bess Fagan, Klamath Union, Sr.; Ashley Franko, Grants Pass, So.; Kim Smith, Roseburg, Sr.; Kendra Strahm, North Medford, Jr.

Catcher '

Amanda Hamner, Eagle Point, So.

Infielders '

Shannon Richardson, Eagle Point, Jr.; Alysse Carlson, Ashland, Jr.; Angela Bettenburg, Crater, Jr.; Megan Lamson, North Medford, Sr.; Tara Whipple, Eagle Point, Fr.; Annie Mannenbach, Eagle Point, Jr.; Jenny Austin, Grants Pass, Sr.

Outfielders '

Marissa Towry, South Medford, So.

Utilities '

Kim Posey, Roseburg, Jr.

.

Crater senior pitcher Jenni Bittle capped her four-year varsity career with a 17-0 record and school-record 172 strikeouts in 106 innings. Mail Tribune / Andrew Mariman - Mail Tribune Andrew Mariman