When Sam Catt took over Kodiak High School’s softball program in 2011 he didn’t know what he was getting into.
After all, he was a baseball guy.
He has since transformed into a softball guy, and is now entering his fifth and final season as Kodiak’s coach.
“When Dave Allen asked me to come do this, I was happy, but kind of scared,” said Catt, who is planning to move to Arizona next September. “I had never coached high school softball before. The whole thing has been fun. I love it and am going to miss it.”
Catt had big shoes to fill as he replaced Allen, who posted a 77-56 record in seven seasons and guided Kodiak to its only small-school state title in 2008.
Catt enters his final season with a career mark of 36-41, two state tournament appearances and one Northern Lights Conference title, which was captured last year.
He would like to end his tenure on a positive note.
“I would love to see us be able to go back to state,” Catt said. “That might be a stretch, but that is always a goal of mine.”
Kodiak is coming off a 10-10 season — 6-2 in the NLC — and a fourth-place showing at the state tournament. However, Kodiak returns only three players who played significant innings last season, but two of those players — seniors Celeste Chichenoff and Dannika Catt — were on the all-conference team.
Catt — Sam’s daughter and a three-time all-conference honoree — played first base last season, but will transition to shortstop, while Chichenoff slides from short to third.
Junior center fielder Kalameli Matautia is the only other returning starter. Catt will rely on those three to guide the younger players, and the team has plenty of them as 17 of the program’s 26 players are underclassmen.
“Experience-wise we are way down, but that doesn’t mean we can’t compete,” Catt said. “That is what we are hoping for.”
Senior Traci Pedersen and sophomore Sage Glamann will split time in the circle, taking over for graduated all-conference pitcher Kaia Yatsik.
Pedersen pitched junior varsity last season, while Glamann is new to the position after spending last year as an outfielder and catcher.
“I’m not looking for either one of them to be unhittable or striking out the side,” Catt said. “Let the teams hit and let us play some defense.”
Catching the two will be sophomore Michaela Zurflueh, who replaces last year’s conference most valuable player Kaitlyn Clark.
Sophomore Eilis O’Donnell will anchor down first, while freshman Mekia Bushell will occupy second.
Manning the corner outfield positions will be Pedersen and senior Mandi Cox.
Catt isn’t sure what to expect from the offense.
“We are going to shoot for the same thing, aggressive hitting, aggressive base running — the things that we have always done well,” he said.