Lady Leopard softball to begin season

The softball team is beginning their season with a new head coach.

The softball team is beginning their season with a new head coach.

Jessica Parrott, Sports Editor

After finishing second in the state last year, the Leopard softball team will begin its 2014 season with tryouts starting Friday, Jan 17 immediately after school.

Losing five seniors, three of which have gone on to play at the collegiate level, the team is looking for new talent at tryouts.

“I think we lost some great leaders in this program who all started their freshmen year on varsity,” head coach Amanda Douglas said. “They had a lot of experience, great work ethic, and experienced some success in the play-offs in the past. What that means this year is that we need new leaders to step up and set the tone for the season, holding others accountable, and sharing their knowledge and experience from last year’s state play-off run. A lot of people think we lost a ton of power, but I am confident that girls will step up this year and provide that element to the game. In addition, we gain a lot of speed this year that we did not have in year’s past, so that will help tremendously.”

Douglas expects to see younger players shine at this year’s tryouts.

“I expect to see some of the underclassmen step up and perform under pressure,” Douglas said. “We have a lot of freshmen who play select softball in the summer and returning players who have gained more playing experience, but not a lot of open spots on varsity.”

With few open spots on varsity, Douglas will be particular about what she looks for from the girls.

“I am excited to see who will step up and perform under the pressure of try-outs,” Douglas said. “Some other things I hope to see from the girls during try-outs is attitude, mental toughness, leadership, aggressiveness, and versatility.”

Falling short of the ultimate goal of a state championship, the approach for the Lady Leopards’ season will be different.

“We will go through this year with a new approach. Each year you are blessed with different personalities and skills set,” Douglas said. “We will take our strengths for this year, along with what worked really well last year, and combine those in preparation throughout the season. We have a dominant pitcher returning, so we plan on utilizing her more this season, and working around her strengths on the mound. We return many of our infield from last season, so we are going to keep the same approach with them as we did last year. Our outfield will have some new faces, and we will design practices and game plans around their speed and arm strength.”

While there will be changes, one things remains the same for the program: leadership.

“We have 5 seniors returning who have been with the program all 4 years,” Douglas said. “They understand the expectations and have great leadership qualities; where one struggles, another excels. We also have many returning players in this program who have emerged as leaders and they have already risen to the challenge. Many think that only seniors can be leaders, and while they have been in the program for more years, we had a freshman last year step up as a leader on the infield. If you are born a leader, or possess those qualities, then you can lead (no matter the age).”

As the runner-ups for the state championship last year, they will be the team to beat this year.

“Our biggest obstacle this year will be how we handle the pressure of having a target on our back,” Douglas said. “I am confident that the girls will be able to handle the pressure well.”