Smith-Cotton softball outfielder Mariah Voitl is seeing a new, more positive attitude with the Lady Tigers this fall.
“We’ve been encouraging each other more,” she said. “Instead of constructive criticism, it’s more of a ‘come on, you’ve got this.’… It’s more energy. It’s fun.”
As a senior, Voitl sees that attitude as part of her role on the team.
“I’m very energetic all the time.” she said. “I probably annoy them half to death, but I keep them going.”
Coach Janiel Draffen said she was seeing a lot of enthusiasm in practice as well.
“Last year, we did not start out the season like that at all and they’ve been really cheering and encouraging and that sets the tone for this season,” she said.
For Voitl, she wants to see more wins but what drives her is what Smith-Cotton softball will look like after she’s graduated.
“My goal this year is to come together as a team and set it up for future generations,” she said.
S-C went into 2014 with a lot of younger players in the lineup, often seeing four or five freshmen in the starting lineup. Now, those players are entering the 2015 season with a year of varsity experience but also with plenty of time left to get more.
“We only have two seniors this year so those younger kids, they’re putting the pressure on and they’re stepping up again this season,” Draffen said.
One of those freshmen starters was third baseman Darby Christian, who led the team last season in batting average and on-base-percentage. She’s back for her sophomore year, though Draffen said the Lady Tigers lineup is still up in the air.
Another returning sophomore back after a productive freshman campaign is McKenna Woolery, who locked down the starting spot in centerfield.
“This year she’s doing amazing,” Voitl said. “She’s doing everything she can to step up and take a place so she can go on and keep going.”
Also returning in the outfield is junior Cheyanne Zinck. She said so far in the first week of practice she is seeing “a lot of hard work from each and every player, dedication.”
Junior pitcher Sarah Bergman is back for her third season in the circle. A pair of other pitchers are working their way back from injuries and could get playing time once they are healthy.
Eric Ingles can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @Eric_Ingles