For WAHS’s Lady Warrior softballers, last year was a record-breaking season. “We had six strong seniors that led us all the way to the regional quarter finals, which was the farthest a [WAHS] softball team has ever made it in the postseason,” said head coach Greg Shiflett. However, the loss of so many veteran players has left this year’s squad needing to rebuild. “We didn’t have a big group of upperclassmen ready to step in and fill those gaps, so we’re a very young team and that can be tough,” explained Shiflett. “We’re looking at this season as an opportunity to work extremely hard, learn with each game and use this experience to get better as a team and as individuals.”
Anticipating the youthfulness of his team, Shiflett emphasized the importance of his players getting together during the offseason and working on skills like batting and fielding. “A lot of the softball girls have jobs, which can make it hard for some of them to come out during the off-season,” he said. “But those who did worked especially hard on becoming better hitters and we’re looking to build on those efforts throughout the regular season, because that’s where we need the most work.”
Indeed, with more than six scrimmages and nine games under their belts, the Lady Warriors have had a tough time getting on the scoreboard. Concerning the shaky start—at the close of April the team is currently 1-7-1—coach Shiflett said the team is continuously working out the kinks and getting better.
“We basically graduated our entire infield and that’s put us at a bit of a disadvantage,” he said. “But we’re continuing to make adjustments and work hard in practice and learn how to play together as a team.” And given their positive attitude and knack for making things fun no matter what—an ability he described as inspiring to behold—Shiflett added that it was only a matter of time before the girls begin to see results. “We have tremendous talent, it’s just a matter figuring out how to develop it and bring it out together as a team,” he said.
Shiflett named four players to watch. First was junior third-baseman and shortstop Lacey Pugh. “She puts in maximum effort and genuinely wants her team to do well,” he said. Second was junior pitcher, third-baseman and shortstop Tiana Knight, who “constantly cheers on her teammates and works to improve her skills to help the overall team.” Third came sophomore first-baseman Gracie Shiflett, who was described as extremely reliable both as a fielder and at the plate, and an excellent teammate. Lastly, there was senior pitcher, shortstop and team-leader Makenzie Sims. “Being one of the older and more advanced players on the team, she’s always offering her teammates great advice and helping them improve,” said Shiflett. “She’s sort of the glue that’s keeping us all together.”
Despite the off year, Shiflett remains optimistic, viewing things on the bright side. “We’re going to make the best of the opportunity to get out there, gain experience and play ball,” he said.