2012 Spring Season Kick-off

Our Blue Mountain Community College softball squad will kick off the 2012 spring season in the Walla Walla preseason tournament March 3-4. Though hosted by WWCC, the tournament is being held in Richland, Wash.

Ready or not, we’ll lace ‘em up and get with it. The girls have been working hard and are chomping at the bit for an opponent. Equally as important is the weather forecast of upper 50s. We’re all ready for warmer temperatures.

We’ve had a bit of everything this winter. It seems like we had every pulled or sore muscle possible, not to mention losing a player to gall bladder surgery, another with a kidney issue and some very inclement weather. We had one week where we had only seven healthy players.

We’re not making excuses. We’re just having to work around those bumps in the road. Everyone has them. Some teams deal well with it, others don’t. We’ll see how we deal with them come game time.

I think we’ll be okay despite practicing in 30-degree weather, spending time indoors and practicing in 60-plus mph winds. What’s that old saying … what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.

In preparation for their season, the girls have been spending three mornings a week in the weight room and practicing daily after classes Monday through Friday.

Here are some questions and answers from recent interviews with various news media outlets:

Q: What’s the strength of your team?

Coach T:  If the season started today it would be two things.
First, defense up the middle. Our shortstop and second baseman are as good as any combination in the NWAACC. That would be freshman shortstop Cheyenne Friend (Redmond, OR) and sophomore Randi Kostner (Sutherlin, OR). They are extremely athletic and very quick. What sets them apart is their desire to always make the play … doesn’t matter if it is practice, a scrimmage or a game.

Second, would be hitting. We’ve got some girls who put the ball in play. Randi and Cheyenne are going to score a lot of runs with big hitters sophomores Jordan Bennett (Brush Prairie, WA) and Kendal Weber (Canby, OR) and freshman Piper Carstens (Pilot Rock, OR).

Q: What’s the weakness as you start your first season at BMCC?

Coach T: First, we don’t have a lot of team speed, so we will be relying on more of a power game than a shorter game. We’ll be more station-to-station than most teams, but we need to make the most of our strengths and not try to do something we can’t do well.

Second: Pitching. But only because we’re not very deep. We have one healthy pitcher (Bennett), one rehabbing from 2010 knee surgery (sophomore Megan Alexander, Gladstone, OR) and one who will join us at Spring Term (Kelli Demianew, Pendleton). Until Alexander gets healthy, Bennett is it. She throws well, is a true competitor and has added two new pitches this year, but we’ll be asking a lot of her.

Q: What’s been the hardest part?

Coach T: Again, two answers. First, we inherited no outfielders and seven third basemen. And of the 14 players we greeted in the fall, we knew very little about all but two of them. So, while we were assessing abilities, we were also trying to turn infielders into outfielders.

Second, being the new kid and learning BMCC and state of Oregon procedures on the run. And, at the same time, recruiting for Fall 2012. Recruiting has yearly importance. More on our recruits in May. Today, I want to talk about our current team.

Q: Have you found any outfielders?

Coach T: Well, we’re still looking for consistency, but freshman Paige Aldred (LaGrande) is coming on impressively. If she plays every day the way she played at Friday’s practice, she’ll be an all-star. Others battling for outfield time are freshmen Cassie Hernandez (Sisters, OR), Chyenne Carter (Pendleton), Kaley Lyles (Wasilla, AK), Jessica Morton (Adrian, OR), Kerica Cusick (Spokane, WA), and Stephanie Figueroa (Nampa, ID). Bennett and Demianew are two of our best outfielders, but until April, it’s not likely they’ll see a lot time in the outfield.

Figueroa and Hernandez are battling for the starting job at third base and Cusick is competing for time behind the plate. Lyles also plays infield and catches.

Q: How different is the look of the team from Fall to Winter term?

Coach T: Well, candidly, we had three players who did not make grades and one who left the program for personal reasons.  So, four joined us after the holiday break.

Q: How do you feel about players who don’t make grades?

Coach T: It’s very hard for me to accept. Many of these players are on scholarship and have a responsibility to the hard-working taxpayers of Oregon to be more responsive in the classroom. It’s really hard on teammates, too. Again, speaking candidly, we shouldn’t be awarding – or rewarding – student athletes who don’t make grades. I take the awarding of scholarships seriously and do not believe in taking (classroom) risks.  I mean it’s an opportunity and to waste it, well … I guess I’ve made my point and prefer to talk about the positives.

The girls are hungry for an opponent … and some good weather. Seems like every day since we started in late January that the practice plan has changed. We weren’t at all happy when the groundhog saw his shadow signaling six more weeks of winter.

We had a four-hour scrimmage with a half-dozen recruits joining us planned for Saturday, but Friday night’s rain and windstorm left the field unplayable. So, we were once again forced inside. We got in a lot of live hitting, but on concrete and in a batting cage it’s not the same.

Q: Any predictions for the season?

Coach T: Honestly, no. We have too many unanswered questions to do that. If we get healthy and eligible and everyone contributes as they can, we’ll compete. To do that, we need more practice-perfect efforts. We need to take it one pitch at a time. It’s an old saying, but once the game starts there are no do-overs.