As softball season gets underway, players and coaches are once again having deal with the omnipresent coronavirus.
Many teams in southern Denton County appeared to be poised for postseason berths and potentially long playoff runs in 2020 before the season came to a grinding halt thanks to the pandemic.
While we are not out of the woods just yet, the tide is starting to turn on COVID-19, as new infections drop dramatically and life begins the slow and arduous process of gradually returning to normal.
The Guyer softball team was a prime example of “what might have been” in 2020, going 16-4 in its first 20 games of the season including a 2-0 start to district competition.
Coach Keith Medford said things are off to a good start this season—for the most part.
“So far so good- aside from the blizzard of 2021,” Medford said. “We are looking forward to getting in a full season.”
Medford said the objectives for this year are to win district and make a deep run into the playoffs, and said in order to achieve those goals it will take a few things
“We need to have great pitching, solid defense, and timely hitting,” Medford said. “Team chemistry is crucial as well.”
Players to keep an eye on this season for Guyer include Ranci Willis, Kate Moala, Ryleigh Nash, and Madison Slater, and look for Prosper, Allen and McKinney Boyd to be the team’s most difficult district opponents.
Down the road in Argyle, the Eagles were 6-3 when the season was cut short in 2020, and coach Kevin Cook said this year, his team has faced another hurdle early on.
“We were off to a good start till the snow and ice hit,” Cook said
Some of Argyle’s stronger returning players include Lilly Coleman, Blythe Wickstrum, Hailey Clark, Pressley Allen, Keira Inman, Ava Edwards, Regan Dillon, Rylee Sandifer and Riley Owen.
Cook said the objectives for this season are to win district and make a run in the postseason.
“We have been in the playoffs the three years before and finished second twice,” Cook said.
Krum, Decatur and Springtown should be Argyle’s most difficult opponents in district, and Cook said he believes it will take a few things for his team to accomplish its objectives.
“We have to get to play the entire year,” Cooke said. “We have talent at all positions and kids that can help out should COVID try to slow us down.”
Across town at Liberty Christian, the Warriors are looking to get a good rhythm going after missing several games due to inclement weather as well, and coach Alex Whitby said the main objective this season is to continue to improve.
“We are looking forward to this group developing and growing,” Whitby said. “We’ve had some new students join the program this year and it should be a year of development.”
Whitby said she does have a few strong returning players this season, as well.
“Harper Newlan is a senior this year,” Whitby said. “She has been a strong contender for our program the last three years. She has won first and second team all-district and all-state and several superlatives. She is a utility player. Hayley Hines is a junior and starting pitcher this year. We are looking forward to see how she serves this team as she throws for us this season. She also catches and plays first and third base.”
Whitby said the teams to beat in district this year include Midland Christian, All Saints Episcopal and Nolan Catholic, and said the recipe for success has a few ingredients.
“I think in order to have a successful run, we just need to stay healthy,” Whitby said. “Avoiding a COVID-related quarantine and injuries, I think our girls will do well in district and the playoffs.”
In Flower Mound, the Marcus softball team was off to a good start as well when the season was suspended and coach Christy Tumilty said it is great to be back on the field.
“We are thankful to have a season this year,” Tumilty said. “After last year, we know the alternative and we are grateful to get to play. All that being said, I know we will have COVID-related issues throughout the season, and we plan on doing whatever is necessary to continue playing.”
The Marauders were 11-4 overall and 1-0 in district competition last season before COVID struck.
Players to watch for Marcus this season include Emma Adair, Tori Edwards, Bella Hernandez, Brooke Johnson, Abby Kubin, Haidyn Sokoloski and Matie Wolkow.
“Our goal is to outlast and make it through district and finish in the top four so we can make a playoff run,” Tumilty said. “We are going to make this season work – whatever that takes.”
Marcus’ most difficult district opponents include Flower Mound, Coppell, and Plano.
For crosstown rival Flower Mound, a 12-8-1 start and 1-0 mark in district at the time the season was suspended was heartbreaking, as the Jags had gone on a run with wins against the likes of Ridge Point, Cy Woods, Huntsville, Brazoswood, Waco Midway, Keller Timber Creek, Prosper and then a 10-0 run-rule in its district opener with Lewisville.
Assistant coach Alison Baird said the season is shaping up well and said her team is ready to make another run.
“The girls have been working really hard all year,” Baird said. “We’ve started to gel and create our common goals for the season and each game. We played really well in all of our scrimmages, scored a lot of runs, and played insanely good defense; we’re ready for a ‘real’ game to put us to the test of pressure.”
Baird said that the atmosphere is positive as the Jaguars move forward with the non-district schedule.
“This team is fun to watch,” Baird said. “We have already had seven home runs and scored 50 plus runs in those scrimmages. We have only committed three errors on defense and our pitching staff has a good ERA to start out the season with. It’s a good starting point for us, but we have quite a few areas to get better in and that will come with competition, pressure, and experience.”
“Our objectives are to just appreciate each day, work hard to get better each day, and strengthen our softball IQ,” Baird said. “Last year’s team would’ve done something special, but we are focusing on the present right now. Most of our varsity team is returning.”
Flower Mound returns 14 players from last year’s roster.