CLOVERDALE -- A year ago the Cloverdale softball team fell victim to the injury bug and struggled throughout their season. This season head coach Kim Bailey hopes the team can stay healthy and make a run as the season progresses.
A key factor in achieving that will be a 22-player squad that features three returning seniors -- Sam Smith, Shanna Schmutte and Breegan Andersen -- and a big class of incoming freshmen.
"We had a couple seniors leave last year so we're trying to replace them and we've got girls stepping up and moving into positions," Bailey said. "We lost our starting catcher last year, so we have a freshman coming in who's come in and working hard. She looks pretty good, so we'll have some years to work with her."
Heather Goss will be taking over the catching position left vacant by Tika Byrd who graduated last season.
Concerning her freshmen squad, Bailey said they know what's expected and are helping make up a junior varsity team that could do some damage this season.
"As far as the girls coming in, they know what to expect," she said. "They know the game -- the older girls -- so we're just trying to push them hard. Since we've got 22 girls we've got a big JV team. The JV team is pretty strong this year. I'm really impressed with our JV team.
"My assistants and I have talked, and as far as the JV coming in, this is probably one of the strongest JV teams Cloverdale has had. Since we have quite a few freshmen that have played ball, played travel (ball) and stuff like that, so they know a bit more about the game," Bailey added.
Bailey spoke about what she hopes to see as strength of the team and that would be at the plate and by being a cohesive unit.
"Hopefully they're hitting," Bailey said. "Hopefully that will be a strong point for us, but also just coming to play together as a team. Sometimes it's hard to get girls from different cliques and stuff, but they come out here on the softball diamond and they're a team -- one team. They leave everything off the field that's from school and stuff like that, but when they're on the field they're a team.
"They really help each other out. When one of them messes up, the other one is there next to them saying 'hey, you could have done it this way. Get it next time.' That is one thing I think people might see the way they interact with one another," she said.
Pitching is always crucial in softball and the Clovers has four pitchers which could see time this season and that's something Bailey believes will come into play when playing conference games.
"Right now we have four pitchers -- Paige Guittierez and Kat Raisor and we have two freshmen who, I don't know how much time they'll get at varsity level, Adri Patterson and Becka Jordan," Bailey said. "Usually we have one or two pitchers and that's it. So the fact that we have four we can work with the JV level and the varsity level and mix up some of the JV and varsity. That's what we're looking forward to.
"If you have one pitcher and you play a conference game and you play the same team twice, they get you the second game. Now we can see what they do the first game and if we need to switch it up the second game we can do that," she said.
"The biggest thing is believing in themselves and believing what they're coaches tell them and doing what we tell them to do," Bailey added.
Even though the Clovers are coming off a season filled with struggles, Bailey expects hard work from her team and for them to learn much more than just playing a game.
"I expect them to work hard at every game and want to get better individually and as a team. And get better as a person by respecting others, respecting authority -- softball's not just a game, it's also a part of live and they learn things about life through the game," she said.
Cloverdale opens its season tonight as it travels to Bloomfield at 4:30.