Softball’s solid start

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

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

Dom Mazero, Staff Reporter

The softball team has a new face in the dugout as Jeff Roberts is in his first year as head coach. The team’s season is just beginning but things are already off to a solid start as  they recently competed in the most competitive tournament in the state and placed higher than they had ever before.

“We went to the 64-team Bryan/College Station tournament,” Roberts said. “This is the largest and toughest tournament in the state each year. Of the top 10 ranked teams in 4A, 5A, and 6A (Top 30), over three-quarters attend this team tournament. Lovejoy had never made it into the Winner’s Bracket of the second day previously, but our Leopards went 2-0 on Day 1 to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. The Leopards controlled the first day winning 7-0 and 1-0, shutting out both opponents while Danielle Brochu only allowed 3 hits in 12 innings of work.”

While in College Station, the softball team picked up some injuries as well.

“Although we did well on Day 1, we did not come through it unscathed,” Roberts said. “We came away with a couple of injuries that have hindered us through the rest of the tournament. We have a couple of nagging injuries that we hope to be over with by the start of district play.”

Throughout the off season, the softball coaching staff have emphasized the development of their pitchers to build depth.

“Coach Voorhees (formerly Forman) has done a tremendous job developing our pitching this offseason,” Roberts said. “Last year, Danielle Brochu threw 362 of 363 innings during the season. Already this season, senior, Stephanie Cunningham, and sophomore, Kallie Killingsworth, has given us quality innings in the circle. Also, sophomore, left hander, Mallory Lusby also pitched during scrimmages.”

In addition to the softball team’s successes, snow and sleet have presented a hurdle.

“Last year by this time, Lovejoy had played over 15 games, and currently we have only played 6,” Roberts said. “The weather has been a huge deterrent for us, but we are hoping to play in the Corsicana Classic this weekend against some great competition. All six teams that we plan to play made the playoffs last year.”

The team has been working for weeks to get to this point.

“At the start of the year, we jumped right into off season going really hard,” senior Amanda Conner said. “This is the most weight lifting and conditioning we have ever done, and I think focusing on that in the off season helped a lot getting us stronger and more in shape. Then varsity went to a tournament by ourselves with a dad as our coach and we won. So I think that really made us realize that we actually can go far this year, and I think it got us pumped to go into the season giving us a lot of positive energy.”

When the team has something to improve upon, Roberts makes sure they focus on that area.

“After a tournament that varsity had, he (Roberts) said that they weren’t hitting as well,” junior Caroline Whitken said. “Then that next week the whole team spent a lot of time hitting. He really focuses on all the areas where we have issues so that we will be ready for districts.”

With the realignment of the districts prior to this school year, Roberts recognizes the competition will be a challenge, but believes the softball team can go all the way to win the state tournament.

“Our district is probably the toughest in Region 2 of Class 5A. Wylie, McKinney North, McKinney, Prosper, and Lovejoy are all playoff level teams in most 5A districts,” Roberts said. “Denison has a JUCO signee that leads them, while Wylie East is a very athletic team, and Sherman has a new coach who has a lot of playoff experience. When looking at the districts around us, I don’t think there is another one as competitive at the 5A level.The most critical item for us is to play Lovejoy softball. When we score 5 runs, we are going to be very tough to beat. We have quality pitching, and a great defense behind whomever is in the circle. I am excited to get the district games going.  Our goal from the start has been 225, the number of miles from Lovejoy High School to Austin’s Red & Charlene McCombs Stadium.”