UCLA-bound pitcher Addisen Fisher has struck out 64 in 31 innings this season for Bend. (Photo by Heather Fisher)
UCLA-bound pitcher Addisen Fisher has struck out 64 in 31 innings this season for Bend. (Photo by Heather Fisher)

Given how much talent Bend graduated from back-to-back state semifinal teams – including 5A first-team infielders Gracie Goewey and Allison Parker – the Lava Bears expected some rough patches this season.

But they also knew that they had the ultimate equalizer in UCLA-bound pitcher Addisen Fisher, ranked by Extra Inning Softball as the top 2024 prospect in the nation the last two years.

“When she's rolling, she alone makes this team competitive,” said Carey Shaughnessy, one of three assistants guiding the team while coach Rob Ray has been out for personal reasons.

Bend – which went a combined 55-5 the last two seasons, falling in the 6A semifinals in 2022 and the 5A semifinals in 2023 – has been working to find consistency during a 4-6 start.

Some of the team's struggles are due to growing pains for young players, but much has to do with Fisher not being fully healthy. Fisher (2-2, 0.68 ERA, 31 innings, 16 hits, 64 strikeouts) has split time in the circle with junior Taylor Aldrich (2-4, 7.14 ERA, 32 1/3 innings, 60 hits, 13 strikeouts).

“We haven't had full Addisen,” Shaughnessy said. “If she was 100 percent ready to go, she would've thrown a lot more. It's a precautionary thing, nothing awful.

“Early in the season, we weren't going to run her out there and run her into the ground. The important thing was to make sure that she's good to go not only for our season, but for her going forward.”

Fisher has shown flashes of her dominant form. She threw a two-hitter with 11 strikeouts in a 6-0 win over North Medford in mid-March. And she was impressive in Tuesday's 3-0 win over Caldera, tossing a four-hitter with 17 strikeouts and ripping a line-drive, two-run homer in the third inning.

“She did it on both ends,” Shaughnessy said. “She was on fire. As far as a complete game for her, she had a pretty fantastic day.”

Bend needs Fisher in top form to make another run toward its first title. But the other Lava Bears, many of them newcomers, must step up.

“We've still got to field the ball behind her, and we've got to put some runs up,” Shaughnessy said. “We can't have four bats in a lineup of nine that aren't productive.”

The offense, which batted .435 and averaged 11.8 runs last season, is hitting .244 and scoring 3.5 runs this season. The bright spots have been Fisher (.476, five doubles, 1 home run, eight RBIs), junior Isabella Lauerman (.419), sophomore Mackenzie Shaughnessy (.276, eight RBIs) and Aldrich (.259, six RBIs).

The Lava Bears, No. 3 in the OSAAtoday 5A coaches poll, swept 6A No. 8 North Medford 11-6 and 6-0 last month and edged 6A No. 4 McMinnville 4-3 last week. Against McMinnville, Shaughnessy had two hits and three RBIs, Fisher had two hits and drove in a run and Aldrich earned the win in the circle.

“We played fantastic,” Carey Shaughnessy said of the McMinnville game. “We made plays defensively when we needed to, and we were smart on the bases. We kind of put it all together.”

Bend has lost to 6A No. 1 Sherwood 9-2, 5A No. 8 Canby 3-2 and 6A No. 9 Westview 7-0. The Lava Bears also went 0-3 against California teams on a spring break trip to San Diego.

As the team's young players mature, Bend should have a more capable supporting cast for Fisher. Four freshmen have started games in Emily Lauerman (infield) and outfielders Cassidy Sandgren, Macy Hickey and Megan Malinowski.

“We're starting to see the ability to go out and do it more consistently,” Carey Shaughnessy said. “I'd love to see a few more wins on the record, but I'll take the improvement and getting better. We're kind of building some steam going into league play.”