By Ray Hamill — Numbers are a concern for College of the Redwoods softball heading into the new season, but attitude isn’t.
The Corsairs have a squad of just 10 players right now, with a couple of the school’s basketball players likely to join them when their season ends, which doesn’t give long-time head coach Maggie White much leeway.
White, however, couldn’t be happier with the team culture, as she describes it, and the attitude of her players.
“We’ve got good leadership and a good team culture, and I feel optimistic,” White said. “But at the same time we need games.”
The Corsairs had four games rained out this weekend, and that could remain a problem through next week as well, all of which is not unusual at this stage of the season, but always problematic.
The players, however, are buying into the program more than ever, and a new focus on building the team culture appears to be paying off.
It’s a philosophy Maggie’s husband Jason White has used to great effect with the Eureka football team.
“Can’t blame, or complain, or defend,” Maggie White summed it up. “If we sit down and talk about something, and we ask, ‘does everybody agree?’ And if everyone agrees, then we need to hold each other accountable, myself included.”
A “rough fall,” as the head coach described it, saw 20 players try out at one stage or another, before the number was reduced in half due to injuries and defections for various personal reasons.
“A lot of things that could go wrong went wrong in the fall,” the coach said. “But we’ve bounced back, and it will make us stronger. I feel this team is ready to play, and I think we’re gonna have a lot of fun this year.
“The team focus is positive. They support each other, and it’s a really good group.
“The 10 players I have are very committed.”
Two returning sophomores
This year’s team features just two returning sophomores, pitcher Ashley Stockwell and catcher Pheobe Marsh, each of whom has been setting the tone on a roster with eight freshmen.
Marsh will call the game from behind the plate, a testament to how much respect White has for her.
“She’s a very intelligent catcher,” the head coach said of the third-year sophomore and former Eureka High player. “And she’s just an all-around great kid. The players love her, the coaches love her.”
Stockwell steps into the role of staff ace this season, and has been working hard on improving her game from a year ago when she saw limited action.
“Last year, she had some control issues, and this year every pitch has more focus,” White said of the McKinleyville graduate.
Six of the 10 players played high school ball locally, including newcomers Dakota Small (Arcata), Becca Tripp (Hoopa Valley), Juliana Ortega-Miranda (Fortuna) and Eureka’s Lindsey Scott.
Small, a standout for the Tigers last spring, will play second base as well as backing up the outfield players, and has been “solid over there” in the middle infield, according to her coach, while Ortega-Miranda will start at third base.
“She’s a good athlete and she’s got a great arm,” White said of the Fortuna graduate, who also plays soccer for CR and will back-up Marsh behind the plate.
Scott, meanwhile, will play first base and pitch, while Tripp will start in right field.
According to the coach, the former Logger “throws hard,” and makes up for a lack of experience in the circle with a “huge desire.”
“She has a smile on her face every single day,” White said.
Tripp, meanwhile, is among the most improved players on the team.
“She has good range in the outfield,” White said. “She covers a lot of ground. Becca takes good angles on the ball.”
At shortstop, Adriana Chavez out of Vacaville brings a lot of athleticism to the infield and has been making some outstanding plays in the preseason.
“She’s a very good player and we plan on using her a lot,” the head coach said. “She makes some amazing plays in practice, so I’m excited to see what she can do in games.”
Two Laytonville players also join the team this season, infielder/utility/pitcher Lily Peterson and center fielder Bronwyn Gilfillan.
Peterson, according to the coach, can play any infield position except catcher, while Gilfillan is a speedster.
“She’s got great speed, like phenomenal speed,” White said. “Like one of the fastest I’ve ever had.”
Rounding out the team is Amy Reyes, out of Bakersfield, who also played soccer for CR in the fall.
“She’s going to be a tough out,” White said.