Prep softball: Young West High team begins to take shape
While the weather outside is frosty and the fields snow covered, the final tryouts for West's softball team are in process inside the G. Ray Hale Fieldhouse. Thirty girls rotate into position, fielding, throwing and hitting in the basketball gymnasium. While some snag hard-hit pop flies and others drop line drives, they all share one thing youth.
Coach Craig Graves watches from the stands, surveying his future Panther squad, as the girls distinguish themselves throwing the ball the length of the gym. They all are fighting for positions, and they'll know who will make the team for the home opener against Park City on Tuesday.
"They're extremely young," Graves said. "I didn't count on fielding such a young team. But I have all the faith in the world that we'll be good this year."
With only two seniors returning, Graves knows he'll be putting the ball in some rookie gloves. This is what is exciting about coaching, he says. Giving players a chance to develop and fighting for a starting spot is what he believes softball is all about.
"They have the right attitude," he said. "They know that they have to step up and in the end, it's about making the best contributions to the team."
Leading the way is Shance Lozano. The senior first baseman is the sole captain and shares Graves' excitement about rebuilding the team. Lozano recognizes that young players bring considerable potential and is looking forward to leading the Panthers on the field.
"We're a strong team with a lot of weapons," she said. "All we need to do it build up our confidence and stay positive."
Lozano believes that developing this confidence starts with her leading by example. She cites the great tradition of captains at West and wants to continue leading not just on the field but off.
"I can't get rattled," she said. "I have to keep my head up and stay focused and be an example for the other girls."
West made it to the state tournament last year, but that isn't enough for Lozano. She believes that the girls in the gym can become a team that can compete with any in the region providing they work hard and maintain the proper attitude.
"I know we can go far," Lozano said. "We just need to know that we can do it, that we can win."