Soaking up softball

Washougal High grad coaches NWAACC champions at Mt. Hood

Drenched in Gatorade, Meadow McWhorter is having the time of her life.

The 30-year-old, who grew up playing softball in Washougal, is the proud head coach of the 2009 and 2010 Northwest Athletic Association of Community College’s champion Mt. Hood Saints softball team. The 1997 Washougal High School graduate has coached at Mt. Hood for eight years.

“There’s so much mental toughness to our sport,” McWhorter said. “If you fail 7-out-of-10 times, you’re still considered a good player. If you only fail 6-out-of-10 times, you’re a great player. It all depends on how you handle that adversity so you can come through in those clutch situations.

“You could be 0-for-3, but that last at-bat could be the most important at-bat of the game,” she added. “If you get the hit that helps us win the game, that’s the only at-bat you’re going to remember.”

The Saints became back-to-back champions when they beat four teams in one day, May 24, at the NWAACC tournament, at Delta Park in Portland. Mt. Hood defeated Centralia 19-1, Wenatchee Valley 5-1, Lower Columbia 8-5 and Southwest Oregon 7-4 in the championship final.

“Last year was the first time Mt. Hood ever won an NWAACC championship in softball,” McWhorter said. “To go out and win it for the first time, and then be able to defend it, was quite a feat.”

Especially for sophomores Ariel Faulkerson of Battle Ground, Nicole Colpran (Fort Vancouver High School), Bre Thomas (Columbia River) and Ari VanHorn (Heritage) of Vancouver and Sarah McGregor of Estacada. Those five played on both championship teams.

“The one thing about this group of girls was their competitiveness. They were the most competitive athletes I ever coached,” McWhorter said. “They were proud to put on that Mt. Hood uniform, and they wanted to leave their mark on the program.”

As the catcher, Faulkerson anchored a young pitching staff behind the plate. She was also named the MVP of the NWAACC tournament.

“There’s a reason why they call the pitcher and the catcher ‘the battery,’ McWhorther said. “They really are the life of the team.”

McWhorter said she would remember Colpron and Thomas for their clutch hitting. In the 2009 NWAACC semifinals, Thomas doubled home the tying run and came around to score on a game-winning hit by Colpron.

VanHorn was described as being vocal and tenacious.

“She played through several injuries, and never left the field without a dirty uniform,” McWhorter said. “That girl played with her heart on her sleeve.”

McGregor was a freshman when Mt. Hood lost in the NWAACC championship game two years ago. An injured knee forced her out of action last season. Although she travelled with the team, McGregor was unable to be a part of Mt. Hood’s first championship season.

She earned redemption in the 2010 NWAACC tournament. When Mt. Hood trailed Lower Columbia 3-0 in the semifinals, she smacked a 2-run home run and the Saints rallied for an 8-5 victory.

McWhorter played softball at Washougal High School from 1994 to 1997. One year, she pitched in a game when the Panthers beat Prairie in 21 innings. She remembers it vividly because the game took two-or-three days to complete, and she pitched all 21 innings.

“I wouldn’t be the athlete that I am, the coach that I am and the person that I am today without growing up in the wonderful town of Washougal,” McWhorter said. “Whenever I drive by one of those fields that I played on, the memories flash back.”

McWhorter lives in Oregon, but visits her parents Rick and Andrea in Washougal whenever she gets a chance. They still live in the same house she grew up in.

She also still has ties to her high school coach John Carver. WHS 2010 graduates Ashley Devincenzi and Chantel McLaughlin signed to play softball at Mt. Hood next spring. McWhorter said she is thrilled to work with her first two athletes from Washougal.

“Mt. Hood has a great reputation for building athletes, both academically and athletically. We do all of the little things to get them ready to play at the next level,” McWhorter said. “One of the things I try to instill in them is a love for the game. If they don’t love the game, we’re not going to do very well.”

For all that McWhorter has soaked in from softball, it is hard for her not to love the game. She never dreamed of coaching college ball at the age of 23, just like she never imagined she would be drenched with Gatorade on back-to-back occasions. This really is the time of her life.

“It feels so great to take a team that had never won anything before to being called NWAACC champions,” McWhorter said. “I love it when the girls understand why we hustle, why we tuck in our uniforms and why we do all of the little things the way that we do them. It’s about having respect for the game.”

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