Fastpitch preview: Matthews legacy rests in capable cleats

Slick-fielding, switch-hitting Yelm shortstop Tessa Matthews follows in some impressive footsteps

mwochnick@theolympian.comMarch 28, 2013 

The name Matthews is well-known around the fastpitch and baseball circles in Yelm, spanning more than a decade.

Senior Tessa Matthews is continuing the family tradition in cleats.

First, there were older brothers Travis and Jarod, both of whom starred in baseball at Yelm High School. Jarod was a 21st-round draft pick by Tampa Bay after his senior year in 2001. Then came older sister Alicia, who was a starting catcher for the Washington Huskies softball squad that won the 2009 NCAA title. Alicia now is an assistant coach at Whitworth University, which is one of the schools recruiting Tessa.

It’s been all Tessa the past three seasons, and she enters her senior season at Yelm looking to add to the Matthews family legacy. But she’s not the last one: the fifth and final sibling in the Matthews clan is Dallon, a freshman on the Yelm varsity baseball team.

Tessa has developed her own identity as a strong defensive shortstop with a solid bat from both sides of the plate. Yes, she’s a switch-hitter, and she batted .418 with a .922 fielding percentage in 2012.

How rare is a switch-hitting fastpitch player? Capital coach Mel Weems, whose team faced Yelm in recent years as fellow members of the 3A Narrows League – before Capital became a Class 2A school this year, while Yelm became part of the 4A Narrows – said he hasn’t had a switch-hitter in his 18 seasons of coaching the Cougars.

“You don’t see too many of them,” Weems said. “It’s really tough to pull that off and be a

good hitter. You have to have extremely good (hand-eye) coordination.”

And Matthews has that.

While her dominant side is the right, she sometimes bats left-handed, depending on the situation. She started switch-hitting during her younger days to give herself more options. Need to drive in a run or get on base to start an inning? That’s when she would most often switch to left side.

“It’s nice to have something I can go to, to help me out and be more successful in situations,” Matthews said.

Coach Lindsay Walton has added something new this season to help the Tornados. It’s early-morning boot camp before school, and already the players are reaping the benefits from it – even if walking up the stairs during school can be painful.

“We’re all feeling a lot better, healthier and more fit,” Matthews said.

A goal at the top of the agenda for Matthews and her teammates is avenging last season’s two-and-out performance at the West Central/Southwest bidistrict tournament after placing second in the 3A Narrows League during the regular season.

Having the Tornados in the 4A Narrows League this season hasn’t changed Matthews’ plan.

“We’re determined, especially the seniors,” Matthews said. “We want to make the best year of it.”



Can W.F. West repeat?

It was an all-2A Evergreen Conference state title game in Selah last May, with the Bearcats topping Tumwater, 15-3. W.F. West lost a lot to graduation, but when your lineup still features home run record-holder Marissa Reynolds, scoring runs might not be too difficult. Watch for Aberdeen, led by senior pitcher Mo Donovan, to challenge W.F. West and Tumwater for the league title.

Hello, offense

A .427 team batting average? Not too shabby for Tumwater in 2012, and so far the T-Birds are keeping their hot bats going. Under the direction of first-year coach Doug Nedrow, the T-Birds have power all over the lineup, led by junior Alyssa Ubrun (.613 batting average, 46 RBI, 9 HRs in 2012). Junior Gabby Vidallon is one of the fastest players on the basepaths, coming off a sophomore campaign in which she scored 46 runs. Not to be outdone are Olympia and North Thurston, both of which are unbeaten in the 4A and 3A Narrows leagues, respectively.

NCAA Division I talent

Three South Sound players will play at the NCAA Division I level next year: Olympia utility player Nikki Schroeder (Long Island), Centralia shortstop Parker Pockington (Arkansas), and W.F. West outfielder Marissa Reynolds (Princeton).


P Maddy Stensby, so., Olympia

P Britni Wilson, jr., Capital

P Brooke Goldsmith, jr., Elma

C Jenna Thill, sr., Capital

OF Marissa Reynolds, sr., W.F. West

IF Alyssa Ubrun, jr., Tumwater

IF Dominique Greeno, so., North Thurston

IF Parker Pockington, sr., Centralia

IF Gabby Braniff, sr., Olympia

IF Tessa Matthews, sr., Yelm

UTL Nikki Schroeder, sr., Olympia

UTL Gabby Vidallon, sr., Tumwater

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 @megwochnick

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