Mountie softball expects strong season
A year ago was a special one for Kate Pratt and the Mansfield women's softball team.
The Troy graduate was an All-American in helping to guide the Mountaineers to a share of the division title in the PSAC.
For Pratt, who is a senior, this is her final year with the Mountaineers and she wants to make it a special one.
"I'm really excited," Pratt said. "We had a good season last year. I'm excited to see what we can do this year. We definitely want to make it last as long as we can."
Fellow senior Emily Crandell was happy with the way last year ended.
"Last year went really great," she said. "We want to have that success again."
While Pratt, and fellow All-PSAC hitter Steph Simmeth return, the Mountaineers have plenty of new faces in the lineup.
This year's lineup includes a lot of speed, and will at times rely on Pratt and Simmeth to drive in the runs.
"We have a lot of fast freshman when they get on the bases it's our job to get them in," Pratt said.
Simmeth knows that people are expecting her and Pratt to produce it the lineup.
"It puts a little more on us to hit people in," Simmeth said. The team counts on us."
While they are the veterans in the lineup, Pratt knows a lot of players will produce at the plate this year.
"We have a lot of newer players this year, there are a lot of people in the order who have to step up," Pratt said
After starting all their careers, Pratt and Simmeth now find themselves as the senior leaders on the team.
"It will be different," Simmeth said. "I feel everyone looks up to us now. I have to step up and be a leader."
For Simmeth it's still hard to realize that she is a senior now.
"I can't believe it," she said. "It went so fast. I still can't believe I'm a senior."
And, since it's her last year she wants to make sure it's a special one.
"It's very important, I want to go out with a bang," she said. "I want to end on a good season."
Along with her success at the plate, where Pratt is already hitting .406 on the year, Pratt is also the ace on the mound this year.
While she has always been a starter, this year she has taken over added responsibility as the number one starter, and she is off to a 3-0 start with a 1.11 ERA heading into Saturday.
One of the challenges for Pratt is putting in the extra work on her pitching, while also still finding time to focus on her hitting.
"It does take a lot of extra time, it's just something I have to work on," Pratt said.
One of the benefits of having a lot of new players on the roster with speed is also having that speed and athleticism on defense.
"It should be nice to have a good defense and be able to just pitch and not worry about striking people out."
A lot of that speed comes in the outfield where freshmen Kayla Allen and Laura Lawson, with Kate Savage also playing there, join Simmeth.
"This season there are new outfielders," Simmeth said. "Its' an adjustment, but you just have to make the adjustments and do your best."
And, Simmeth knows being a senior surrounded by a pair of freshman she will be leaned on for advice a lot.
"They all ask who is good, who is not, what to look for," Simmeth said. "I love being a senior, everyone is so great, everyone gets along well."
Throughout her career Crandell, a former District 4 pitcher at Mifflinburg, has worked as a closer for the Mountaineers.
Now, the senior finds herself as the team's other regular starter.
"I'm excited, I haven't gotten a chance yet," Crandell said. "I'm excited to show what I can do. It's been my goal to be a starter. I have worked toward this for the last four years."
So far this year Crandell is off to a 2-2 mark with a 2.26 ERA.
"I have to change my mindset from closing to now starting," Crandell said. "I can plan a little more on when I will pitch to."
The Mountaineers also have Tunkhannock grad Ashley Inman on the mound, who is 3-0 in relief this year with a 0.00 ERA and 12 strikeouts in 16 innings.
With three players doing all the pitching all three realize they have to be prepared to pitch every day.
"With three pitchers you have to be ready all the time," Pratt said.
And, while Pratt and Crandell are starters they know they have to be ready to come in to close games as well.
"You could start one game and close the next," Crandell said.
Pratt knows with three capable pitchers if she does struggle there are others who can come in.
"There's not that much more pressure," she said. "You know that if something happens someone can come in and shut the door.
Pratt isn't the only local player in the lineup as her former Troy teammate Amanda Goodwin also returns.
Goodwin is the starting shortstop and in the team's first PSAC game against nationally-ranked Shippensburg on Saturday she had a pair of doubles and scored the team's only run.
"Playing last year helped me build confidence this year," Goodwin said. "I know what I need to do."
A year ago Goodwin played short while Pratt pitched and often sat when Pratt played shortstop.
This year with Pratt pitching more Goodwin will find more time at shortstop and she will often be in the lineup at third when Pratt plays short.
"I'm really comfortable playing with Pratt, we work well together," Goodwin said.
A year ago Goodwin was more comfortable with her defense as she adjusted to hitting at the college level.
After the year's experience she is more confident as a hitter.
"I am a lot more comfortable when I'm in the box, more relaxed," she said.
And Goodwin knows with her speed she will be counted on to get on base and cause problems for other teams.
"We want to go out and put pressure on the pitcher," she said.
For Goodwin and Pratt this is their last chance to play on the same team.
"We talked bout it," Goodwin said. "Going back and looking at high school and coming up and now to being here together."
It's also an ending of sort for Crandell and Pratt and Goodwin. Troy and Mifflinburg were high school rivals and Crandell, who has family in Troy, faced the Trojans multiple times in district playoff games.
"It's funny, now we are best friends," Crandell said of her old high school rivals. "I really like it."
While they had a successful year last season the Mountaineers know that they have to prove themselves again this year.
"We were picked sixth in the league and we want to prove ourselves and have another good year," Pratt said.
And, as one of the leaders Pratt will expect herself to help guide the Mountaineers.
"I do put a lot of pressure on myself, I want to do my best,' she said.
NEW FACES FOR MOUNTAINEERS
Two of the newcomers for the Mountaineers are Savage and Lawson who are both adjusting to playing softball at the college level.
"It's a lot different," Savage said. "It's a college sport and you have to get used to the practices and Laura and I have had to get used to playing right away."
"The level of competition is so much greater," Lawson said.
Both freshmen are getting a chance to play as freshmen. Lawson, and fellow freshman Kayla Allen, have started games in the outfield, while Savage has also played in five games this year.
"I'm a little surprised," Lawson said. "It's exciting."
Joining a team that had a good year last year, neither freshmen was sure how much they would play this year.
"With all the success they had last year, it's great to get this chance," Savage said.
One thing that has helped the pair is having upperclassmen, like Simmeth in the outfield with them, to lean on.
"Having them there helps you a lot," Savage said. "Everyone gets along well and everyone is willing to help."
"Having them around to ask things to is a big help," Lawson said.
And, having a player like Simmeth in the outfield with them makes their job easier.
"We know the middle is covered and we only have to worry about our part," Lawson said.
Lawson had an idea of what to expect after the Fall where she played for the field hockey team, appearing in seven games with a pair of starts.
"It helps to realize how different it is," Lawson said of playing another sport at Mansfield. "It helped to learn how to keep up with the school work and practice and doing what I have to do."
Both players enjoy being part of a college team where everyone can produce.
"Even if you are not able to get the hit, someone else is able to," Lawson said. 'There is more confidence that everyone can come through.
"We only had a couple players in high school that could produce and now everyone can pretty much come through. They are not able to just focus on you ass a hitter, because another hitter can hurt them."
And, that allows the freshmen to just go out and do the best they can.
"We can rely on other people," Savage said. "You can count on the second baseman to field the ball, and the first baseman to catch the ball. You can count on everyone to get hits. You can count on everyone to do their job."
And, Savage and Lawson just want to be players that can be counted on by their teammates in that same way.
"I just want to try and do my job and know what my role is," Lawson said.