The Union Democrat Sports Department

A trio of seniors have led the Tioga Timberwolves softball team into the playoffs that begin on Thursday in Lodi.

Brianna Deckard, Sam Hindle and Taylor Powell have put up some hefty numbers to help Tioga finish 6-3 in the Mountain Valley League and earn the No. 2 seed in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VII Championships.

After a two-year program absence, Tioga will face Valley Christian of the Sacramento Metro Athletic League at 5 p.m., at the Lodi Softball Complex.

Tioga head coach Dawnelle Dutton came back to guide the Timberwolves because she knew she would have a strong core of kids that wanted to play.

"These three seniors are one of the main reasons I decided to come back and coach," Dutton said. "I had coached them their freshman year and knew how dedicated they were. They are hardworking and a pleasure to work with.

"After a two year program absence, the key was just going back to fundamentals. We had juniors that had never played high school ball. I was working with girls who hadn't held a bat since little league, so going back to fundamentals was a huge part of making this a success. Honestly, I thought this season was going to be tough, rebuilding year."

Deckard, who was the only pitcher with any experience, hurled every inning of all nine games for Tioga. She also carried a .461 batting average helping her own cause.

"She didn't have much experience, but some was all we needed," Dutton said. "Because we started a month late, we didn't have a lot of extra time to 'make' anyone else a pitcher. She pitched well and did it with a good attitude."

Powell was Deckard's backstop, a position she had never played coming into the season. Powell hit a whopping .526 which includes a pair of home runs and a triple.

Hindle anchored the infield at shortstop and third base, albeit not at the same time. The hustling senior hit .389 with a pair of doubles and a triple.

"Taylor had never caught before and ended up doing an awesome job, barely allowing any passed balls," Dutton said. "Sam started at third, but I quickly moved her to shortstop because of her hustle. She is a great player to have in the infield because I can depend on her to make the right play."

Also going into battle for Tioga on Thursday are juniors Destinee Kennedy, Jarlin Martinez, senior Brittany Miller, sophomores Krysti Mitchell, Sabrina Deckard, Melinda Pollock and freshman Gabby Timmins. Dutton is assisted by Shelbi and Cindy Green.

"These girls that played other sports caught on to the game real fast and adapted to positions they hadn't ever played," Dutton said. "They made their fair share of errors, but overall they stepped up to the plate and made something of their season."