By LANCE MASTERSON
Of the Keizertimes
Alan Kinler isn’t a weatherman, but he knew how hot it was in the Arizona desert when questioned last week.
“It’s 105 degrees in Tucson right now. It’s only 75 or 80 degrees here,” Kinler said.
This 25 to 30 degrees difference is important because Kinler coaches the Lady 10U state champion softball team, the very team that represents the state at next month’s national tournament in, you guessed it, Tucson.
And while other teams from the Southwest are acclimated, the same can’t be said for teams from the Pacific Northwest.
This heat differential isn’t lost on some of the Celts players.
“It’s going to be really hot, and it’s going to be fun,” said Emma Kinler, 10.
A second 10-year-old, Heather Arp, noted many of her team members played in last year’s national tournament as well. Temperatures for that tournament, which was in Salem, approached the century mark.
“We played during the heat wave (last year),” said Arp. “It was fun and it was a good experience. We’ll be ready.”
Despite having one eye on the Tucson thermometer, Coach Kinler doesn’t expect his team to be beaten by the heat.
“Our girls will cope. And they’ll do fine,” Alan Kinler said. “They’ll do whatever they have to do to win some games.”
The Lady Celts are undefeated in tournament play up to this point. Their winning recipe includes strong pitching, solid defense and timely hitting.
Jordyn Tutor is the team’s ace. She tops out at 55 miles per hour, a speed comparable to some high school and college pitchers.
“It’s not called anything,” Tutor said of her pitching strategy. “When you push off, you just come up tall and accelerate your arms and just snap your wrist.”
Tutor augments her fastball with a rise ball, change-up and screwball. She estimates her “change is 10, 15 miles an hour slower than my fastball.”
Solid defense behind her provides Tutor with even greater confidence on the mound.
“I know that they can back me up. I just throw the ball and they hit it and then we get the out,” said Tutor.
The rotation is bolstered by the strong arms of Paige Whipple, Hannah Childress and Arp.
An underage Lady Celts softball did not win a game at last year’s national tournament.
“We weren’t good and we didn’t win a game,” said Emma Kinler of that performance. But this year “we’re a lot better because we put more focus into it, and we’re just doing better.”
The coach said he won’t be surprised with whatever happens in Tucson.
“That’s tough,” said Alan Kinler. “I mean we’d like to win a bunch of games, and this team’s very capable of doing that. But I can’t guarantee any wins.”
Still, he said this team is better than last year’s squad.
“I’d be surprised if we lose all our games again,” said Kinler. “I also wouldn’t be surprised if we won it all. This team knows how to do that.”
The fact the Lady Celts are headed to the desert sun in August came as little surprise to Kinler, especially as the season waned.
“When the season started clicking along, you could tell, like I said earlier, that this is a special bunch of girls,” said Kinler. “To win state, it was almost expected, but in a nice way. To say we’re going to do it, and to know we’re going to do it, but then to actually do it; that’s a whole other thing.”