Discipline and accountability are what Cleveland softball coach Connie Stobert will be looking for from the Lady Raiders this season.
The Lady Raiders, who suffered though a five-win season in 2011, have been in the weight room since August preparing to get back out on the diamond and prove they are ready to do what it takes to have a successful 2012.
“They worked a lot in the offseason. We started strength and conditioning in August. We’ve focused on getting faster and stronger in the weight room. Hopefully, that will carry on to the field. We’ve focused a lot on our hitting. That is the area that needs improvement. The girls have worked really hard in the offseason trying to get better and improving their swing,” said Stobert.
“We’ve started off pretty well. We have had four scrimmages and had some promising results. We are still a young team. We only graduated two seniors. We didn’t lose many upper classmen, and we have four new freshmen. We are young, but there is a lot of potential from the young ones coming in to help.
The Lady Raiders, along with improving in the fielding and hitting categories, will have a bounty of pitchers to choose from. The Cleveland roster boasts six hurlers ready to step in against the opposition.
Leading the group is senior Yoshi Hooks who will be expected to share her knowledge with her younger counterparts. Sophomore Mikeala Clements will also be firing the leather along with three freshmen hurlers Stobert said will need to mature quickly. The newer Lady Raiders will do well to study seasoned veteran Hooks, one of three seniors on the Cleveland roster. Also on call will be sophomore Karli Davis who will be seen more in the field for Stobert.
“We have three freshmen who are pitchers. They are very strong. Kayla Lee, she is a small girl, but she throws well and is very accurate. We’ve got Carly Frost who has great speed and movement with the ball. She is very strong and versatile. She can pitch, play infield and outfield. Haley Hodgson plays infield and pitches,” said Stobert of her rookie Lady Raiders. “We’ve got a wide range of pitching which is good and promising.”
“With them being so young, they are going to have to mature fast. But, that’s a good thing for us. We do have five upper classmen who won’t be with us as long. The younger girls are going to have to develop and mature and be ready to step in when called on.”
With all the pieces ready to be put into place, Stobert is looking forward to bringing the Cleveland softball program back to prominence. The Lady Raiders have a solid core of veterans and an excited group of young talent ready to get things going.
“The girls are anxious and I’m anxious,” admitted Stobert. “I’ve seen improvement. Last weekend’s tournament and Tuesday’s scrimmage was an indication we are going to have a better season this year. It takes a while to grow and develop,” said the Cleveland coach.
“I think this year we are going to do a lot better in competing. Last year, we won five games. We played almost 35 games. We came off with a losing season and that kind of got us down. The girls haven’t had a lot of success even before that.
The Lady Raiders, after a couple of years of decline, have set their sights on the future and feel they are ready to go for 2012. Stobert said the potential is there, it is simply a matter of mind over matter and maturing her lineup into a solid unit.
“They are ready as much as I am and they are hopeful, which is good. It’s easy to get down and stay down with people kicking you down. I’m hopeful with these young players. They’ve got potential and they’ve got sound fundamentals. We can come in and actually compete with whoever we play against. I think we stand a chance with a lot of the people who are on our schedule. We’ve just got to focus on minimizing our errors and be smart. That will come with maturity and experience. But, I’m very hopeful for an improved season.
“My goal for them is to compete. If we can go out and know we played strong and aggressive and did everything we could and still lost, I’m OK with that. But, if we go out and make seven or eight errors then we beat ourselves. The errors we make are not skill, it’s mental. They need to use their skills, be disciplined and come back. We weren’t really able to do that last year.”