Blue Ridge Early College softball season opens
By Dan Brown / Staff
CASHIERS -- As the weather has caused fits with the Blue Ridge Early College baseball team this spring, it has done the same and worse for the Lady Bobcats softball team.
According to Head Coach Ashley Steinel, her team has enjoyed just four days outside this spring due to the elements, and her team’s first three games had been postponed due to inclement weather.
For an inexperienced team that has to learn on the job already, the going just got a little tougher.
“We are a very young and inexperienced team and we need to get our time in on the field,” Steinel said. “We’ve only had four days outside so far this spring because of the weather. There’s only so much you can do in the gym.”
Steinel added the Lady Bobcats’ softball field lies below the baseball field behind the school and has encountered its own share of challenges when it comes to drainage. Besides the field issues early on, the Lady Bobcats are trying to fill slots on the ball field position wise, with just three returning players off last year’s team.
Steinel’s Bobcat girls finished 2-14 overall and 1-14 in Smoky Mountain 1A Conference last year. And the program itself is relatively new -- this is just the third year Blue Ridge Early College has fielded a varsity softball team. So Steinel is walking into this season with her eyes wide open.
“I understand we’re inexperienced and we need to learn a lot of basic fundamentals,” she said. “All I want from the girls right now is to work hard in practice and play hard in the games.”
And to be competitive.
“We need to put ourselves in position to win ball games,” Steinel said. “I want this team to be competitive.”
One benefit of having such an inexperienced squad, is the lack of bad habits. Since these Lady Bobcats are still green around the edges, there aren’t many bad habits to correct.
“I get to teach them the right way to do things first,” Steinel said. “There aren’t any bad habits to unteach with these girls.”
Just because her team hasn’t played a lot of softball so far, it’s not the worst scenario out there.
“We’ve got athletes. We have girls who play multiple sports here and they’re athletes. They know what they have to do to get ready to play a game, whether it’s softball, basketball, or soccer. They’re in shape.”
Steinel said there’s a lot they can accomplish with a team full of athletes.
“I’m realistic about our chances out there, but I know what I’m looking for out of this team,” Steinel said. “I’m not really sure how we’re going to go, but we’re making progress.”
Progress that is showing up in play during practice.
The BREC athletes are stepping forward in practice, Steinel said.
“Monika Palestino has never played softball before, but she has been hitting the ball really well in practice,” she said. “I asked her if she was sure she’d never played softball before. She’s really making good contact.”
Steinel said she has to find some arms to toe it up inside the circle, and is counting on Selena McCoy and Charlotte Sherrill to cover some innings.
One surprise though, has been Maddie Potts, one of those athletes Steinel mentioned.
“Maddie Potts has got a great arm, she can really throw, and she’s young.”
For BREC to be competitive they will have to learn how to manufacture runs.
“We have to play good, fundamental, station-to-station softball,” Steinel said. “We didn’t win a game our first year, but over the past couple of years we have held our own with several teams and have been on top.”
Steinel added, if her Lady Bobcats can keep the game close, they will figure out a way to win a few of them.
“We are young, and we are building for the next three to four years. We have almost everybody coming back next year, and our lineup will include a lot of freshmen and sophomores.”
Steinel likes her team’s chances once they’re able to take the field. Blue Ridge’s next game is an away matchup vs. Cherokee set for 4:30 p.m. Friday. The Braves girls will be hoping to avenge their 13-9 loss last year to Blue Ridge. The Lady Bobcats won’t play at home until Tuesday, March 20, when they take on Andrews at 4:30 p.m.
“As far as going back and playing after the layoff, it’s not going to hurt us that much,” she said.
(Crossroads Chronicle Editor Don Richeson contributed to this story.)
2018 BLUE RIDGE EARLY COLLEGE SOFTBALL SCHEDULE
• 4:30 p.m. Friday, March 16 -- Blue Ridge visits Cherokee.
• 4 p.m. Monday, March 19 -- Blue Ridge visits Next Charter.
• 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 20 -- Blue Ridge hosts Andrews.
• 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 27 Blue Ridge hosts Murphy.
• 4:30 p.m. Thursday, March 29 -- Blue Ridge hosts Robbinsville.
• 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 3 -- Blue Ridge hosts Hiwassee Dam.
• 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 6 -- Blue Ridge hosts Hayesville.
• 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 13 -- Blue Ridge hosts Rosman.
• 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 17 -- Blue Ridge hosts Cherokee.
• 4:30 p.m. Thursday, April 19 -- Blue Ridge visits Smoky Mountain.
• 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 20 -- Blue Ridge visits Swain.
• 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, April 24 -- Blue Ridge visits Hiwassee Dam.
• 4:30 p.m. Friday, April 27 -- Blue Ridge hosts Swain.
• 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 1 -- Blue Ridge visits Andrews.
• 4:30 p.m. Thursday, May 3 -- Blue Ridge visits Murphy.
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