Picayune softball uses summer games as testing ground

Published 7:00 am Saturday, July 13, 2019

The summer heat couldn’t keep Head Coach Kristi Mitchell and her softball squad off the diamond these past couple of months.

The Lady Maroon Tide softball team took part in a summer league that started in late May and lasted through June.

The girls were matched up against other high school teams, and Mitchell used these games as a way to experiment with player positions.

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Less experienced players learned from seasoned veterans during the games as Mitchell shifted the athletes to positions they may have never played before.

“It allows us to see what else we have out there,” Mitchell said.

Getting game experience at a position can be a massive boon for the team when the season begins.

Mitchell said it’s hard to replicate game situations during practice sessions, and that’s why participating in the league was invaluable for the squad.

“You look for more development, and growth of their knowledge of the game,” Mitchell said.

Readying the athletes for the next season doesn’t end when the games do.

The squad will use the next five months before the beginning of the season to start conditioning, and during that time Mitchell is expecting a lot of growth.

That progression is predicated on hard work and dedication, something Mitchell says her athletes have.

“I think you spend your time on what you care about the most,” Mitchell said. “These girls want to represent Picayune the best way they can and dedication to that is part of it.”

Not only do the athletes want to perform well for the community, but they also understand that if they work hard enough there are opportunities awaiting them after high school.

“A lot of them have aspirations to go past high school, and there are so many opportunities at the next level,” Mitchell said.

“Once they get in high school they realize that and see the doors opening for them.”

Mitchell said making sure the players excel both on and off the diamond is just one responsibility of the coaching staff.

“We as coaches spend a lot of time with them, sometimes more than their parents,” Mitchell said.

“It’s important that we’re not only growing athletes, but great young women and leaders in community.”

The summer games give the coaches the opportunity to educate the athletes on a variety of topics, and in softball that understanding of the game can make a difference.

“We’re teaching them the things we’re expecting of them,” Mitchell said. “The pace of the game gets faster as you grow, so we need them to understand what we’re doing.”

The coaching staff instills an intense focus on the game, and that’s something they’re looking at during these summer league matches.

Mitchell and her staff make sure the athletes don’t take any pitches off, and are focused every single play.

“In softball every position has a job every pitch, and we’re making sure you’re doing your job when you’re supposed to do it.”

Things will ramp back up once the school year begins, and Mitchell expects big things from this year’s team.

“We’ve been rebuilding the past two years, and I think we’re catching up to where we were in the past,” Mitchell said.