Last season, new Falcons girls fastpitch softball head Coach Chuck Burton had to deal with a variety of problems — new players trying to understand game fundamentals and some internal team dissension — and it resulted in a 5-15 record.
That was then, this is now.
“I’m thinking we’re going to give this league a serious run for their money,” Burton said. “Alea (Robertson) will be commanding respect on the mound, backed by an outstanding group of motivated athletes.”
Robertson and her catcher, junior Amanda Spaulding agreed.
“Everyone’s attitude has been terrific this year — we couldn’t wait to get out here,” Robertson said. “And we all trust each other to get the job done,” she added.
Talking about the unspoken bond she shares with the pitcher, Spaulding noted the team started out on a much higher level from the first day of practice.
“I went to Alea’s pitching clinic at Trinity Lutheran and I can tell what she’s going to throw almost before she does,” Spaulding said. “Getting back in the dirt is great!”
Comments like that come as no surprise to Burton. With six returning seniors leading 18 newer girls he has a core group of committed players ready to move to the next level.
“I have more confidence in them and they have more in themselves,” he said.
The big hitch last year was getting the girls to understand new field positions.
“We worked on basic skills and the short batting game (bunts, slapping, drag bunts) just to get the ball in play,” Burton explained. “It took up a lot of practice time.”
With experience, Burton has the team working on more sophisticated concepts. “They’re starting to understand the need to recognize their situation when they come to bat and predict what the other team plans to do,” he said. “You’ll note the girls are watching the base runners more carefully and making plays on them.”
He’s expecting the seniors to provide solid leadership skills; hitting as well. Shelly Burton was second in the Cascade League last year with a .465 batting average and the coach hopes she can repeat the feat.
“With so many girls graduating last June, now it’s their turn to show everyone what they can accomplish,” he said.
Joe Murphy, who has worked for years organizing and running fastpitch clinics, is the JV coach.
“I’m impressed with the drive and determination of the freshmen and sophomores who came out; it means the program will remain solid into the future,” Burton said. “If needed, I won’t hesitate to ‘flow’ players up or down to give the younger girls some playing time.”
Apparently, no one has a problem with that philosophy.
“I love being in the circle, but with Rebecca (sophomore pitcher Stratton) I don’t have the pressure to pitch every inning,” Robertson said. “I love playing center field. We’re all meshing so well; you know, all the talent in the world doesn’t matter if you aren’t bonding as a team.”
Senior Teah Wanamaker had the final word. “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend,” she joked.
The girls travel to Port Townsend March 16, then welcome Coupeville to the home field March 23.