Anna Cox participates in a fielding drill at a Mt. Zion softball practice.
By BLAKE FAITH
Last year, the Mt. Zion softball team went 21-15 and finished third in the Apollo Conference and won a regional championship. This year, the team wants to win the Apollo Conference and win a regional and Head coach Greg Blakey believes this team has a shot at winning a sectional championship.
Coach Blakey said that it “always feels good to get back on the field,” and that they have a new lot of people on this team and that in the off-season worked on speed that will help offensive score runs and prevent runs defensively.
Coach Blakey said that his mix of juniors and seniors have played a huge part in the team’s success the last two years, but that there are a lot of talented freshmen and sophomores. Coach Blakey hopes that the underclassmen put pressure on the veteran players that in turn will make the team better in the process.
Coach Blakey hopes that his seniors make a huge impact on this year’s team. He has seen them come on strong at the end of last year and has seen them develop into good leaders and wants to continue to be led defensively and offensively.
Coach Blakey wants his upperclassman to be the calmness to other players when it comes to battling season situations.
The Braves have a combined nine upperclassmen with six seniors: Bailey Maulden, Molly Besser, Anna Cox, Dakota Harrison, Kennedy Highley and Kayla Schnippel and three juniors in Jolie Shafer, Karlie Teel and Audri Johnson.
“They’ve been in the heat of battle,” Coach Blakey said. “I expect them to be a calming influence when things get a little crazy sometimes. They’ve been in the heat of battle, so they understand how to get through it successfully. So, in terms of leadership that way I expect that from them. Again, I expect them to lead us offensively and defensively and to lead the charge that way.”
Highley hasn’t been able to make it to off-season workouts due to being on the regional champion girls basketball team, but in her time back and on the court tried to lead by example so the girls can see that. Highley’s team goal is to win against Charleston and get to the sectional championship and individually wants to strikeout less than 10 times at the plate and wants to leave her lasting mark on the program that there was no doubt she was a hard worker.
Schnippel has been to every off-season workout and has been pushing her teammates to get better and paying them to work harder in their conditioning to get better for this season. Schnippel wants to not only get back to Sectionals but advance past the sectionals and individually wants to lead her team on the mound as she is a returning starter pitcher from last year. Schnippel wants her lasting mark to be the example that other classes will try to emulate when they’re seniors.
“I definitely want to be someone that the girls in the future will like to see my leadership and will help them be able to absorb that and then leave that when they become seniors for the other classes.”
Harrison has tried to build connections in her leadership roles with everyone and especially the younger players. Harrison’s individual goal is to keep a positive mindset throughout the season and help lead her team on the mound as a returning starting pitcher and in any position her team needs her to play on the field. Harrison wants her lasting mark to be as a leader and a friend.
Coach Blakey’s overall message to readers and the community is “come see us play.”
“I think we’re going to be a fun group,” Coach Blakey said. We’re older, but we have a lot of talent, a lot of speed that we’re gonna put to use this year, so I think it will be a fun group to come watch.”
The Braves will begin their season against Maroa-Forsyth at home on March 23.