There are winning seasons and there are rebuilding seasons. Nearly every team has experienced the ups and downs of both, and nearly every coach can attest to the valuable lessons learned in both.
The Lady Mustangs are in a rebuilding season. After graduating five seniors last year and seeing their starting shortstop go full time as a basketball player, the team is working on starting from the ground up.
Head coach Steve Bottoms is very clear about the team’s priorities this season.
“You have these years from time to time. None of us are having any delusions about this season. Not the coaches, not the kids,” he said. “We are not measuring the success of this season by wins, per se, but by seeing things get better and better as the season progresses.”
With some of the most experienced starters being sophomores, the Lady Mustangs have plenty of time and potential.
Sophomore starter Cynthia Haugh is invaluable as a team leader.
“She is the most vocal player we have and has the most experience on the team,” Bottoms said. “All of the kids look to her for her leadership and even the older kids don’t seem to have a problem with the leadership coming from an underclassman.”
Haugh tied the school record for hits as a freshman and broke the school RBI record. She also hit seven home runs. At catcher, she is playing out of her normal position at third base due to team injuries.
Sophomore pitchers Hannah Maxey and Alyssa Gonzalez will be heavily used this season.
“Hannah has the most experience and Alyssa has more limited experience but they are both up to the task,” Bottoms said.
Also playing where she did not expect is senior Sydnie Hines. Previously focused more on volleyball, and playing on the JV softball squad, Hines was pulled up to varsity last year to fill an injured player’s spot.
“I am sure she never expected to be the starting second baseman for the varsity softball team but she gave us some really valuable innings last season and we are counting on her this year.”
Injuries and illness have also plagued the squad, with several of the most experienced players out recently.
“We were playing with a skeleton crew last week,” Bottoms said. “We were glad to have a week off before district starts so that we can get everyone healthy.”
With inexperience and injuries, it could be easy for the team to get discouraged.
“The kids understand where we are and that we need to stick with it as a team,” Bottoms said.
Though the team may be young, Bottoms has the experience to know there is light at the end of the tunnel.
“This is not my fist go-around with a season like this,” Bottoms said. “It is tough to lose ballgames but you have to get yourself mentally right and if we survive this we will be mentally tougher and physically better as a team.”