MP softball on a roll after tough beginning - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Sports

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MP softball on a roll after tough beginning

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Posted: Sunday, March 30, 2014 6:45 am

Lumps eventually heal and if handled correctly can build character.

It appears to be the case with the Mountain Pointe softball team as the Pride has put together a nice stretch the last few weeks after a difficult start to the season.

The Pride opened the year with six straight losses. It got a little tense. Real intense. Then the win came, and so did another one and another, and so on.

Mountain Pointe has won six of eight since then and has played closer to the level that was expected to start the year.

“Finally,” senior Teagan Wambold said. “We know how to work better together as a team. The game is mostly mental and if you are not in the right mindset then you are not going to play well. At the beginning we kind of got mad at each other. There was definitely a lot of tension because we couldn’t win at all. Now we are picking each other up.

“We are a lot more relaxed.”

Mountain Pointe inched ever closer to .500 after beating Desert Mountain 11-2 on Wednesday. The Pride is 6-8 overall and 3-1 in power ranking games heading into Friday’s home game against Highland, a team that beat Mountain Pointe 9-4 during the bad stretch.

It will be a good test to see how far the Pride has come since the start of the year.

“We had some young players that had to try and find their spot in the Red Mountain tournament,” Pride coach James Bradford said. “In the seven games in the Desert Mountain tournament everyone new where they fit. They know their roles. It’s an ever evolving thing and it will change, but they are much more comfortable with each other.”

Once again, in Bradford’s second year, the roster and lineup has a good mix of established and young players trying to get the Pride into that elusive postseason picture.

The program hasn’t been able to play beyond the regular season since 2010. This team, especially if it continues to rise, could be the one to end that streak.

“We have a ways to go but I love the way the season is trending,” Bradford said. “The fundamentals have to be there — defense, advancing runners and throwing strikes — and we have a chance to do something. We can hit the ball and we’ve been really hot at the plate lately. The schedule is going to get tougher and we have to match it.”

It helps having two stars in the making in junior catcher Hannah Hoban and junior pitcher Kristen McCann as the battery is starting to flourish at an even higher level in their third year of varsity ball.

“It starts with them,” Bradford said. “You expect them to get better every year, but they’ve made a huge jump this year.”

Hoban is hitting .596 with nine doubles, five home runs and 24 RBIs, while McCann has a 2.44 ERA with 66 strikeouts in 63 innings along with a .490 average, eight doubles, a triple and 11 RBIs.

“They play the game hard and you see how good they are,” said sophomore Ana Howard, who is the backup pitcher and is hitting .263.

Keri Sheehan (.378, 10 runs), Wambold (.341, 13 runs, 4 doubles), and Gilbert transfer Jenna Huerta (.343, 6 doubles, 10 RBIs) have been strong offensively. Wambold, in her fourth year of varsity, and Huerta, who hit .404 and drove in 19 for Gilbert last year, has taken on a leadership role.

Throw in the contributions from other players like Keri Sheehan, Kayla Shaw and Ashley Bribiescas and the Pride has the makings — as long as the lumps have completely healed — of a nice comeback story.

“We have made some nice strides,” Bradford said. “We had a winning record (15-13) last year so we know how to win. It’s why the slow start was tough to take, but I think we came through it OK.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or jskoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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Jason P. Skoda
  • Jason P. Skoda
  • Sports writer
  • Resident sports writer at the Ahwatukee Foothills News

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