At the start of the season, the Northwest Bullets 16U softball team coached by Kris Zacher set the lofty goal of reaching the Premier Girls Fastpitch National tournament, with the chance of competing against top teams from around the country.
Despite only playing in one qualifier, and in its first year as a squad, the Bullets accomplished the feat of earning a spot in the field at PGF Nationals, and will be one of more than three dozen teams competing in the Premier Division.
“We kind of put all our eggs in one basket,” Zacher said, referring to the narrow qualifying window. “Luckily, we had a great draw, hit a ton, produced runs and had great pitching.”
The team includes girls from Mount Si and even Moses Lake, but the nucleus of the team is made up of players from Issaquah and Skyline.
After coaching many of the same girls as part of the Issaquah Flame in previous years, Zacher formed a new team for 2014, reached out to the Portland, Ore. based Bullets program and became a satellite team for one of the region’s most successful and nationally recognized club fastpitch organizations.
“We needed to have a team that was nationally recognized,” she said. “The Bullets seemed to be the best fit for us and what we wanted for our girls.”
The fit has also been ideal for Issaquah High School student and softball player Justi Johnson, a rising junior and 4A All-KingCo honorable mention selection during the prep season.
Johnson said despite Zacher’s initially intimidating presence, it quickly became obvious the level of care she had for her players.
“A lot of the time, she is more of a friend,” Johnson said. “She’s gotten me to a point where I’m more comfortable talking to new people.”
Zacher said her main focus for the Bullets has been building a camaraderie through off-field bonding that can be transferred to the softball diamond. The team was selected not only for their fielding and hitting abilities, but their chemistry.
“The girls feel like family,” Zacher said. “There was a process to picking the girls on the team, and also the parents.”
Zacher’s Bullets include a host of players from local high school teams, including All-KingCo selections in Morgan Bevell, Tatum Dow, Justi Johnson, Lauren Lo and Sydney Schultz.
A large part of the mission of the Bullets is gaining exposure and college scholarship opportunities for their players. Zacher said with a team of mostly rising sophomores and juniors, and with a host of girls who have never played outside the state of Washington or in national tournaments, the hope is to make the most of the few opportunities they have.
“We don’t get as much opportunity and exposure in the Northwest,” she said. “They really learn to develop and lead their high school teams.”