Cottonwood softball looks to erase back-to-back early round playoff exits
First baseman Kaysie Polad heads for home after slapping a home run. (Alissa Smith/Cottonwood softball)
By Brian Shaw | firstname.lastname@example.org
After a topsy-turvy season saw the Cottonwood softball team bow out in 2016 at the same point it did in 2015, the Colts are looking for something more in 2017, said head coach Alissa Smith.
Exiting in the 5A State tournament in the one-loss bracket two years running, the Colts have decided to get that chill out of their bones and take their talents down south to get a few games in before it counts in region play. After playing a few games in St. George, Smith issued a challenge to her young team.
“I told the girls, I need you to decide what kind of team you want to be,” said Smith. “Do you want to be fighters or do you want to be quitters? They flipped their caps on backwards. They all played hard. Then one of my juniors just busted the ball open on one play. There were just a ton of positives.”
For the Colts, the annual March Warm Up in St. George March 10 didn't start all that hot. Cottonwood lost 15-8 to Mountain Crest—a team that also made it to state last year and bowed out at about the same time as the Colts.
As the Warm Up went on though, the Colts bats heated up. Cottonwood knocked off Logan 13-12 to wrap up Saturday play in the two-day tournament. Trailing by six going into the bottom of the 7th inning, the Colts roared back and reeled off seven runs to get their first win of the year.
“Earlier in the morning (versus Mountain Crest) we struggled a bit. Our challenge has been getting a full identity right now, it's girls high school sports, they'll do that from time to time.
But I could see we were improving,” she added. “At the first game in the tournament we battled back down 0-9. They got tired but they still fought back.”
In Smith's view, her team's brief battle with adversity was a great teaching moment—because this year the team's theme is “True Grit.” The next morning, she said the Colts lost two games to Idaho Falls, Idaho and Desert Hills in tough fashion. But, having played five games in two days, she said she also needed to see what kind of team she had and she saw that, especially during the second day of action.
The Colts wrapped up the March Warm Up in St. George with a 14-2 loss to Desert Hills on March 11, coughing up six runs in the first inning. Considering the Thunder lost to Logan last year in the 3A State Tournament first round though, Cottonwood's big victory over Logan will resonate with people as the season goes on.
“My girls are smart, they're aggressive, that's baseball, it's magic that comes and goes. We've got a sophomore who has stepped up and become our starting pitcher,” said Smith. “She must have added 10 miles per hour to the speed of her pitches after showing up in open gyms all winter.”
The girl to which is the coach is referring is sophomore Carlie Roberts—one of many youngsters on a very young team starting only three seniors—a player that Smith hails as a key to the Colts.
“She is the quietest, most unassuming human being you've ever seen in your life, and she's also in my AP world history class,” said Smith. “The amazing thing is she goes and pitches a complete game, and in that game there were line drives that I'd be afraid of, and then she comes and throws the Logan game with a huge bruise on her leg.”
After telling her young charge that one day she too would own that circle on which she pitches such heat, Smith told Roberts that “you'll have to make me yank you out by your ponytail, that's how much confidence I have in you.”
Smith said the timidity of her young team is starting to fade. They're here to play and they're here to work hard. Character-wise, Smith says her girls have the highest GPA of any Colts team, a 3.5 average according to information given to her by her athletic director.
“We don't need superstars to win,” said Smith, who will rely on a number of young arms and legs to get her through what she anticipates will be a competitive region. “We love fans and were getting a lot of people to come out to see our games. I'm a teacher in my building and I want my girls to be examples of what it means to be a Colt.”
The Colts will be back at home for one more preseason game before beginning region play. Smith said Cottonwood has a shot to be very good; it'll just take some growing up from a Colts team that is decidedly young still. But she's excited to see what she's got.