Welcome back to what is sure to be another jam-packed semester of exciting sports at Linfield. Unless you live under a rock, you’ll recall that our softball team is the defending national title-holder, and its season got underway last week. Is a repeat title in the works?
The baseball program is beginning the season with high expectations as well, and the chance to finally break open the deep playoff run that’s been millimeters out of reach for the past few seasons.
And in sports news, the Trail Blazers had a recent piece of feel-good news that will have Portland fans everywhere bouncing in their seats with joy and excitement.
But first, our softball team. Last Wednesday, the reigning national champion Linfield softball program began its title defense, and what a defense it was.
Catball pounded helpless National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics foe Concordia-Portland in a back-to-back, 7-3, 10-3 beat down at the newly-christened Del Smith Stadium.
From the look of things, the team is picking up right where it left off last season with a full head of steam. Senior slugger Emilee Lepp had a padded stat line, finishing with five hits, six RBIs and a homer.
The fresh pitching tandem of senior Lauren Harvey and sophomore Karina Paavola had an impressive collective performance as well, striking out 14 combined batters.
Make no mistake, folks: even with many returning starters to anchor the team, promising newcomers plugging holes and a unanimous preseason No. 1 ranking, repeating as national champions is extremely difficult.
I think this team is capable of pulling it off, and hopefully come May, it can take its talents to Salem, Va., and play for the national championship.
On the men’s side of sports, the baseball team looked poised to have a breakthrough season. For the past few years the team has been playoff-bound but has always come agonizingly close to a deep run before running out of gas.
This season’s team received a lofty preseason ranking at No. 4 in the nation.
You will recall that last year the team peaked at No. 3 before eventually finishing at No. 9, and this year’s team looks better on paper than it has in years.
If it can play to its potential and stay healthy, Linfield fans might have double national titles to celebrate for the first time in a very, very long time.
Now, about those Blazers. Earlier this week, former Portland center and current retiree Joel “The Vanilla Gorilla” Pryzbilla has decided to return to Portland for the veteran’s minimum contract, a surprising move that has this writer giddy with anticipation for his first game back.
Pryzbilla has been getting back into NBA shape for months, and after passing a physical Sunday, he’ll be eligible to play as early as March 1.
On Feb. 27, the team will sign him and make a choice on which player currently on roster to waive.
If you ask me, put Greg Oden and his two bum knees on the chopping block and finally rid Rip City of his bloated contract.
It’s time to wash our hands of this “era” and the good vibes surrounding Pryzbilla’s return ought to more than compensate for the severance of this once number one draft pick.
When you really think about it, Pryzbilla’s choice is as inspiring and surprising as any I’ve ever seen. The Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat, two of the NBA’s hottest teams this season, were seriously courting him to shore up their depth in the middle.
It just goes to show that the love for a city like Portland can trump the desire to join a title-contender, and that Rip City’s fans truly are the greatest on Earth.
When Pryzbilla steps onto the court for the first time this season in a Blazers jersey, the Rose Garden just might explode from the sheer noise Blazers are certainly going to make.
With that feel-good story in your minds, I bid you adieu. Go watch some sports this week, both at Linfield and on television. Remember: fans are half of the equation!
Chris Forrer/Sports columnist
Chris Forrer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.