MT. PLEASANT—Essentially the last time the seniors for the North Sanpete High School softball team played in games, they were underclassmen. As juniors last season, they played in just two games due to COVID-19.
“Basically, your seniors this year haven’t played since their sophomore year, so it’s a weird thing to know how they will do,” Lady Hawks Coach Landon Bailey said. “Our lineup may be completely different at the end of the year from what it was at the first of the year.”
Count another way in which the pandemic has thrown things off. And it spells possible difficulties for the Lady Hawks after they finished tied for fifth in the state three years ago and third two years ago.
Eighty percent of the Lady Hawks’ roster could be underclassmen—only three seniors and three or four juniors will be on a team that could be 30 girls, Bailey said.
“We have only a few players who have really played varsity level—and we would have had another four or five who would have played varsity,” Bailey said. “You just don’t know; [COVID-19] has changed everything.”
Players who do have varsity experience include Graciee Christiansen, who has started since she was a freshman, Emma Whiteman, Jada Bailey and Kayzlie Reed.
Christiansen will be the Lady Hawks’ main pitcher, Bailey said. Christiansen also plays some of the “major defensive positions” as well, Bailey said.
Also, Christiansen hits really well. Bailey said in the two games that North Sanpete did play in 2020, she had seven or eight runs batted in.
“So she’s a good player,” Bailey said.
There’s another reason for hope.
“As I talked to a lot of coaches, they are in the same boat,” Bailey said.
Many North Sanpete girls do play a lot of travel ball, Bailey said.
“That will help a lot going forward,” he said.
Bailey called last season being cut short by the pandemic “pretty rough.”
“It’s still something that I try not to think of too much,” he said. “We had five really, really good senior girls last year who missed out on a chance to play. … I feel bad for them, but it is what it is. The girls are excited to go again … we’re definitely not going to take things for granted.”
In fact, when Bailey was asked what he is most excited about for his team this year, he said, “Just that we get to play.”
The players have worked really hard on hitting, Bailey said.
“The last few years, we have had … some strong hitting teams and we score a lot of runs,” Bailey said.
The challenge, as can be expected, is “being young and finding kids who are ready to play,” Bailey said. It will be a matter of finding girls “who will get the job done and be comfortable in their spots,” Bailey said.
“We may take our lumps early,” Bailey said. “But hopefully early to midseason … we can be competitive.
“That’s the hope.”
Players and potential players have been training perhaps once or twice per week since school started in late August, not counting moratoriums, Bailey said. He noted “a strong group” that has come out—probably more than they ever have had.
Also, girls who play other sports are getting involved.
“It’s really showing that they are wanting to have a good season,” Bailey said.
Tryouts were March 1, with one week of practices before the first game coming Tuesday at Grand County.