McKenzie ushers in new season of softball

Published 5:26 pm Friday, February 13, 2015

As the setting sun retreated over a freezing McKenzie softball field Thursday afternoon, so to did a dawning season of Lady Tigers softball begin in earnest.

The junior varsity and varsity softball squads were split down the middle for a preseason scrimmage in preparation of the impending season.

Matt Coghlan, first-year head softball coach of the McKenzie Lady Tigers, is a familiar face to most as a presence on the sidelines during football season.

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Coghlan said that the transition to the diamond hasn’t been difficult at all, thanks to a great crop of players.

“It’s a really great group of girls,” Coghlan said.

“They’re eager to learn and they come to work with a blue-collar attitude every day, and they do everything that’s been asked of them.  Softball’s really important to them, so it’s been a lot of fun so far.”

He added that the passion for softball at McKenzie is easy to see, from the players to the parents to the community at large.

Thursday’s scrimmage in freezing weather conditions made that fact abundantly clear, as McKenzie parents and fans packed the bleachers despite the chilly, gale-force winds.

But what Coghlan saw on the field made him just as proud.

“I was happy with both our pitchers [senior Ashley Ballard and sophomore Kaitlin Padgett],” Coghlan said.

“They both threw more strikes than balls, and that’s big on your first time out.”

The wealth of experience for Ballard tipped the scales in her team’s favor as the navy team edged out the gold team 9-3 in four innings of play.

Coghlan said that the decision to put both J.V. and varsity players on either side was beneficial to underclassmen and upperclassmen alike.

“Sometimes we weren’t backing up throws like we should,” Coghlan added.

“But everything else was good.  The main thing we got out of [Thursday] was getting some of the jitters out.  They were nervous; it was their first time in front of an umpire and their first time in front of a crowd this year, so that was the main thing we wanted to accomplish.  I didn’t even really coach. I just stood back and let it play out.”

Coghlan followed the scrimmage with a meet-and-greet from the warm confines of the McKenzie gym, where he had a brief 15-minute meeting with parents to discuss expectations and exchange contact information.

Meanwhile, the quarterback club provided the main course for an evening dinner just for the Lady Tigers, and the community provided sides and desserts to show the girls appreciation for all of their hard work and to start the season on a positive note.

Coghlan said that he’s excited for the upcoming season and he’s looking for a good start, but he’s planning for an even better finish.

“Our expectation is to go out and win a lot of games, but I tell them every day that we want to be playing the best ball we can play into April and May at tournament time,” Coghlan said.

“That’s where we’re headed every day.  Everything we do is to take baby steps toward playing great ball into April and the first of May.”

The junior varsity softball team will kick the season off Sat., Feb. 21 with a round-robin tournament, and the varsity team will host its first home game on Mon., Feb. 23.