The Troy High School softball team is coming into the new season with veteran starting lineup and a lot of offseason preparation.
Troy Head Coach Keith Haggerty said that he worked with several of the players during the fall, focusing on their individual problem areas.
“I leave it open year round for one-on-one. We can’t practice like with a full team, but you can work with an individual one-on-one,” he said.
Even some multisport athletes took time after practicing for volleyball to head out to the practice field behind Stein’s Market to get in some softball practice.
That additional practice time helps a lot, Haggerty said.
“It keeps that coaching relationship going, and with this team, they are — they’re just a great bunch. Last year’s team, the new kids this year — they’re interesting people,” he said. “It’s just like a good, year-round relationship to talk to them and see how they’re doing in other sports too.”
Coaching is about relationships, he said.
“That’s what we’re supposed to do as coaches, build those relationships, so then the trust is there, and then it helps with listening and executing,” he said.
After struggling during the volleyball and basketball seasons, the Lady Trojans are ready to push themselves on the softball field.
“They know they’re better than they were last year in softball, and feel they should be performing a lot better,” Haggerty said. “Whether that comes out in wins or losses, it’s hard to say.”
Haggerty said he expects stiff competition in the league, even from Thompson Falls, who Troy beat last season.
Thompson Falls has a good coach and returning players who also put in time last summer continuing to build on their improvements over the season, Haggerty said. “I expect them to definitely be improved this year.”
“All the teams should be better this year. We had some really good competition last year,” he said.
With 20 players — including four new freshmen — Haggerty said the Trojans are in a similar position to last year as far as the roster. That means they will be able to field a full junior varsity team, while the returning seniors take the five bench spots.
The team also has some upperclass rookies this season, such as senior Emily Remirez, who is also participating in Track and Field at the same time.
Haggerty said that even without much time practicing on the field, the team already is in a better spot for hitting than it has been in the past.
“We do have more that can put the ball in play right now — that can hit the ball — than we have in the past,” he said.
The team has been working on pitching depth in the offseason as well.
“We still need a lot of work with the pitching, but I have, I believe, four pitchers this year that I can put out there in a game,” he said.
Haggerty said that it’s hard to find a player who has been pitching for years in Troy. Sometimes there isn’t even a team for girls to play on at the lower grade levels.
“It’s difficult to, basically, take a freshman and turn her into a pitcher, and that’s kind of what we have to do,” he said.
Junior Mazzy Hermes, who pitched most games for the Trojans last year, is returning to pitch, and has been hard at work already, Haggerty said.
“We’ve been able to work on a few things, so she’s going to be a little different of a pitcher this year, and she has the potential to be really good,” Haggerty said.
Junior Montana Rice, who stood tall at third base much of last season but did some pitching as well, has also been improving on her pitching, he said.
“Montana’s really gotten better. Her mechanics, last year, she just kind of got thrown into it because of injuries. So we didn’t put a lot of work in,” he said.
Senior Tristan Winebark came off the mound last season with an injury, and Haggerty said she is still dealing with a problem with her elbow.
“It’s her senior year. We want her to have the best year she can out in the field, so we don’t want to lose here,” he said. “She’s a solid first baseman, and really good bat, so we want to keep her in the lineup all the way.”
Sophomore Talise Becquart is also going to be pitching again this year, and seems to have worked through some of the jitters that held her back as a freshman.
“Last year she struggled, but she now wants to do it, and that’s the thing,” Haggerty said.
The next game for Troy will be Tuesday in Libby, when the face the Logger junior varsity team at 4:30 p.m. at Remp Field.
They play their first home game on Thursday against Florence, with the first game at 3 p.m. They play again Saturday at home, against Bonners Ferry at 4 p.m.