A serious kickball game broke out at the end of the Desert Vista softball practice on Saturday to end spring break with a good vibe.
It had the players remembering the good old days when the game ruled elementary school recess.
Of course with the young lineup the Thunder is playing with this season, the players didn’t have to dip very far into the memory banks.
Desert Vista is playing about six freshmen — Tia Craig, Kiara Kennedy, Kaylee Dietrich, Tyra Craig, Kendall Schwartz, MacKenzie Moore — most games and it is clearly a talented group.
But if there is one thing all coaches — regardless of sport — know about freshmen is their performance level tends to be a bit unreliable.
“There needs to be more consistency,” first-year coach K’Lee Arredondo said. “They have all the talent in the world. It’s a matter of putting it together at the right time.”
The Thunder has held its own as they enter this week’s action at 4-5 despite the fact that most of the starters are playing at the varsity level for the first time and senior hurler Shea Koepnick, an Arizona State recruit, hasn’t taken the mound yet because of back surgery.
One of the big wins thus far was of the comeback variety as the Thunder scored three runs in the bottom of sixth inning to beat Salpointe Catholic 4-3 on March 7.
“It’s a huge confidence builder for all of them,” Arredondo said. “It’s a new squad with a new coach and we’ve had minimal practice time. We needed a win like that to build off of and show them we can battle back when we have to in games.”
Desert Vista, which is 2-2 in power ranking games, should improve as the season goes on with the freshmen getting more acclimated.
“We had some tough losses where we kind of beat ourselves,” Arredondo said. “We will learn from our mistakes as a team now, fix them and be ready the next time we are in those situations.”
Senior Michaela Duarte, who led the team in hitting at .609 through seven games, believes it will happen pretty quick because of the approach taken by Arredondo, who won a national championship while playing at Arizona in 2007 and for Team USA.
“The intelligence she brings to the game makes us want to be better players,” said Duarte, who moved from shortstop to second base this season. “She has been in so many situations as a player. She is going to put us in the right position or correct it if we are not.
“She’s teaching us so many aspects of life and not just softball. Coach K has all of our respect as a young coach and we are doing everything we can to play the game the right way.”
Duarte, senior Morgan Schnidele, and junior Madison Kelly are the links to the past as the Thunder look to make the playoffs for the third straight year.
“DV softball has come a long way,” Duarte said. “It’s up to us to show the younger players what it means to play for DV and continue what we’ve done over the last few years. With these young, talented players they are going to be good for the next four years.”
Dietrich (.429, team-high 6 RBI), Moore (.400), Kennedy (.391) and Schwartz (.316) have been the most consistent offensively, while Schwartz (1-2, 5.48 ERA) has helped with mound duties with sophomore Brooke Hughes (1-2, 3.04 ERA).
The talented youth and young coach with a winning pedigree are laying the ground work to what could become a pretty impressive run.
“The foundation is there,” Arredondo said. “The seniors are doing a great job of leading the young players and this group is scratching the surface in how good they can be. They don’t even realized it yet.”
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