Sports

Auburn Riverside's Emma Bedsworth aims to lift Ravens to postseason

Auburn Riverside senior Emma Bedsworth. - Shawn Skager/Reporter
Auburn Riverside senior Emma Bedsworth.
— image credit: Shawn Skager/Reporter

Auburn Riverside Ravens centerfielder Emma Bedsworth took last season's 2-18 finish a bit hard.

"It was hard seeing all the losses compared with some other teams," said Bedsworth, a junior co-captain on that squad. "Some of the girls that I used to play with (in select ball) made it to state."

Despite the team's record, left-handed Bedsworth did not have a bad season, finishing with the best batting average (.471) and slugging percentage (.647) in the South Puget Sound League North 4A – all while striking out just four times. She also made full use of her speed, swiping eight bases in 10 attempts.

But ask Bedsworth, now a senior co-captain for the Ravens, what she remembers most about last season and she'll tell you it's not personal stats or the team's poor showing in the win-loss column.

"I liked being the leader on a team that was like, 'it's alright, it's fine,'" she said. "That thinking kind of brought us all together and made it fun, instead of just letting losing define us."

But that doesn't mean she's content with another poor showing this season.

"This year we're striving to win and make the playoffs," she said.

Bedsworth has been playing ball for as long as she can remember.

"I started when I was real little, like T-ball age," she said. "My dad coached me until I started playing select ball with the Acers in eighth-grade. I was really always a softball girl. I played other sports when I was little, but softball has always been the one for me. My dad definitely pushed me. At first it was just something to do, but my freshman year, I stepped it up."

Initially an infielder, Bedsworth – who has signed to play at Bellevue College next season – said she moved to the outfield on the advice of her select coach with the Acers.

"My select coach figured because I was fast and left-handed that I should play the outfield," Bedsworth said.

For her first two years of high school softball, Bedsworth was an obvious up-and-coming star under the tutelage of longtime Auburn Riverside Coach Christine Leverenz.

After her sophomore year, however, she learned Leverenz was turning over the reigns of the program to new coach Bryce Strand.

"It was really, really hard, and I still somewhat struggle with it because I miss Lev [Leverenz]," she said. "I worked really hard for her my first two years here, and I wanted the reward of having my junior and senior year with her. But this year and last were growing years with Strand. We overcome a lot of obstacles, and I'm glad we did because he's a really great coach, and he's definitely learning, we're all learning. There are a few traditions I miss, but I definitely like where he's going with the program."

Bedsworth said the challenge of stepping up and leading the team also helped soothe the sting of Leverenz' departure.

"I loved becoming a captain," she said. "Last year I was nominated, and I just took charge and became the vocal leader of the team. It was a really great growing year for me, and I learned I'm a natural leader. I liked taking charge of the team and helping and influencing the girls. That was probably the best aspect of it for me, the girls actually listening to me and loving what I had to say."

Already this season, Strand said, he's pleased with his star player's leadership ability.

"Emma is the senior on the team that clearly has the most softball experience," Strand said. "Everybody leans on her as far as making great defensive plays, being the third or fourth hitter and coming through with the big at-bats. And everybody knows she can do that.

"I'm really proud of what she's done this year as a senior captain," he added. "She's just been incredible this year, she's been a vocal leader. She's the best player on the team, so she leads there, but she and I are also in lockstep and she believes in what we're doing and can convey to the team, and they will follow her."

For Bedsworth, the team objective's this year are modest.

"We want to win five games, make it to playoffs and go from there," she said. "We have a lot more girls that want to be here this year and want to play and know how to play. We're meshing together really well."

For herself, she's pushing the limits a little higher.

"Last year I led in stats for hitting in multiple categories, so I definitely want to do the same thing," she said. "This year I want to do the same thing and maybe win MVP."

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