It’s the second year of Thunder Mountain softball and the Falcons feel like their a step ahead with a full season under their belts, and they’re ready to show it on the field.
Thunder Mountain’s program, including the JV, has grown to 41 players strong, with 10 returning from last year’s varsity unit that included 15 players.
“A lot of the girls have buckled down this year and they’re working a lot harder because they know more of what to expect,” senior co-captain Anna Bullock said. “And we have some freshmen who are keeping us on our toes. For some of the girls that had never played before, the freshmen are bypassing them and that’s good because it’s a competition. It’s opening up opportunities.”
Bullock returns for her second season as the ace of the pitching staff. Sophomore Devyn Kubley will pitch in relief, along with senior Alissa Hulbert, co-captain Madi Wells, Mersade Wells and freshman Ashley Boucher.
“We’re trying to develop some pitching,” Cordero said. “We only had Anna last year and Devyn pitched sometimes. But we have some new girls this year and we’re going to give them a shot.”
Bullock said she’s been working hard developing her pitches, as well as upping the velocity and pinpointing her location.
“My arm is feeling good and I’m throwing six pitches,” she said. “(My velocity) is coming along. It’s good in practice so we’ll see how it goes in games.”
Junior Jeslie Villaverde returns at catcher with improved confidence and comfort behind the plate, Cordero said, and there are a few other girls who can step in and back up.
“We’ll probably start Jeslie and see how she does,” Cordero said. “She’s got a heck of an arm but she’s still a little green.”
Sophomore Michelle Manning will start out at first base, with Olivia Raster and Jacki Mallinger up the middle at second and short stop, respectively. Freshman Joelle Masdag also will play both positions up the middle, and Kubley returns at third.
Casey Hansen and Madi Wells both will get a look in left field, Darian Musielak and Madi Wells will patrol center, and Megan Punongbayen is out in right.
The Falcons biggest problem in their first season was errors in the field. Cordero said it’s all a matter of becoming more confident and not letting one mistake get you down.
“As long as they stay focused, they do well,” he said. “That’s what we’re working on right now. As long as we can do that, we can make some good plays.
“The difference is by this year, we know their weaknesses and strengths, and they know us better, too,” he continued. “They know the signs now, where they missed some of them last year. They have a better understanding of the whole picture.”
Madi Wells said the team has shown improvement and should be better defensively.
“Our defense is better this year and everybody knows what they’re supposed to be doing. There’s not as much confusion on the field,” she said. “Our throws are much more accurate and we’re working on our (cut-off throws) to get the ball in faster, and we talk a lot more.”
The lineup is a work in progress, but Cordero believes he will have a better hitting team this season.
“They look good in practice and they’re hitting it pretty hard. I just hope it translates onto the field,” he said. “Again, it’s just a matter of confidence. Stay tall in the box and just relax: It’s just you and the pitcher. You have no control over what’s going on around you. You can only control how you react to it.”
Cordero likes the options he has at the top of the lineup as far as speed.
“We’ve got speed. That’s for sure. But we have a lot of new girls so we have to think about how we want to play the game. We’re going to try different things, obviously,” he said. “We’re going to give the girls the chance to hit in different spots and see where they’re comfortable.”
Cordero said the team practices hard and looks much improved, so now it’s time to show it on the field.
“We are hoping we are in a different place (from last season) for sure, and we’re going to find out this weekend,” he said. “The girls are more confident, but still a little nervous. I feel that we’re a lot better than we were last year and hopefully, it will show in the games.”
Thunder Mountain hosts Sitka at 5 p.m. today, and then takes on Ketchikan at 7 p.m. at Dimond Park.