Bingham senior softball players Keagan Hanny, Jaden Mortensen, Whitney Littledike and Danielle Soffe have seen just about everything on the softball field: state titles, broken bats, shattered helmets, broken bones and a disappointing fifth-place finish after a 17-12 campaign in 2011.
As the four headed out for the first day of offseason conditioning, a course filled with giant tires and areas sequestered for four-person pushups and wall stands drew an immediate ripple of skepticism.
“At first the tires looked like they would be impossible to move,” said infielder Soffe. “We were all kind of iffy about how this would help us.”
After grinding out 5,000 pushups, agonizing for days in the wall-stand area and flipping the tires over and over again, the Bengals have seen promising results.
“We did this stuff for long periods and I think it really pushed the girls past their limits,” said Coach Mikki Jackson. “We’ve seen a difference physically with hitting for power and it’s given us a mental edge.”
In addition to a stronger squad, opponents will be facing a senior class that wants the state championship trophy back at Bingham.
“I feel like [the state title has] been ours for the last three years and it just didn’t feel right to give it back to someone else,” said outfielder/catcher Mortensen.
Catcher Littledike, who blasted homers in consecutive wins over Skyline and Murray to open this season, said any lingering doubt from last year’s disappointment is long gone.
“We had some people playing new positions last year, and just felt kind of iffy before every game,” she said. “This year there are no questions, and I feel like our swagger is back.”
Senior pitcher Hanny doesn’t throw as hard as junior Paige Reimann, but Jackson thinks her off-speed pitches look better than ever.
“Both of them are a year older mentally, and they understand the game a little differently,” said Jackson.
One common thread among the four Bingham seniors is their being brought into game situations early in their careers.
Mortensen started the majority of her freshman season, Littledike remembers an at-bat and playing right field for a game in the 2009 state tournament. Hanny and Soffe started playing more as their sophomore seasons progressed.
While Soffe is scooping up wicked line drives from the infield, Mortensen gunning down base runners with her rocket arm, Littledike directing traffic and belting homers and Hanny baffling batters with off-speed pitches, Jackson said she wants to break the ice for the younger players.
“Region was just so tight in 2010 and there just wasn’t an opportunity to take chances,” she said. “It’s so crucial to break the ice in their first varsity action so they’ll be more comfortable later.”
Miners prepared for season
A military-style strength and conditioning program has the Bingham softball team stronger than ever. The Miners flipped tires and did thousands of pushups during what coach Mikki Jackson calls an incredibly difficult offseason.
Jackson says shortstop Danielle Soffe is hitting the ball early and often this season.