HUNTINGBURG — Just being around a Southridge softball practice for a few minutes can give off a high-energy vibe as the Raiders head into their 2023 season under first-year coach Megan Mattingly.
And Mattingly affirmed that her players love being around one another, hyping one another up and working hard every minute of the day “creates a fun atmosphere for all.”
She’s had a message to the team this week of practice.
“We’re here to compete,” Mattingly said. “We’re here to surprise some people, we’re here to come out, be bulldogs — every pitch, every play, no matter who we’re playing. That’s what Southridge softball is going to be about — we’re going to come in, we’re going to compete, we’re going to work hard and we’re going to do little things right.”
Mattingly spoke with The Herald last summer and mentioned an emphasis on the weightroom, following up with that on Wednesday that the Raiders were in the best shape they can be in — lifting two days during this week and will continue to lift during the season.
“That’s all them — they worked hard and props to them for that,” she said.
The Raiders, who went 12-13 last year, boast different pitchers and catchers to utilize throughout the spring. Senior returners Ally Buening and Emily Ferguson have prior experience in the circle, plus some freshmen in Kenley Ferguson — Emily’s sister, plus Millie Hunter. They could also have different looks behind the plate this spring in senior Claire Lanman and sophomore Molly Schwartz, as well as freshmen Keegan LaRoche and Adalynn Lanman, Claire’s sister.
There certainly is distinction when it comes to the pitchers Southridge will trot out in the circle this year, with each having the ability to be different and crafty in their own ways.
“I would say the Ferguson girls both know how to spin the ball,” Mattingly said. “Ally B’s grown tremendously with her speed, Millie is going to continue to get better — so all of them have plenty of talent, and I’m excited to see them grow.”
But Buening, LaRoche and a host of others are also capable of producing in the lineup when Mattingly’s Raiders are on offense.
“We have a good balance of people who hit for power — (junior) Maddux Marshall, excited to see people watch her and see tremendous growth in her,” she said. “We have a lot of speedy people — we have Emily Ferguson, we have Kenley, we have (senior) Bailey Keusch, who can run the bases like no other — so we have a good balance of speed, of power and people who are crafty with different talents.”
The Raiders scrimmaged with Springs Valley Thursday, with Mattingly telling her players everyone would get an opportunity, and wanting her players to use every opportunity they have to prepare for the Blackhawks in the scheduled season opener March 28 at home.
That game against Springs Valley will kick off a season with what looks to be a competitive schedule on it, including some stiff competition in the Pocket Athletic Conference. But the coach wants the Raiders to work on the mental side of things and not just the physical side — not worrying about who the opponent is.
“Whatever happens, happens — we’re going to focus on the process and not the result,” Mattingly said. “We’re going to continue to get better every game, and ultimately, those teams are going to make us better and we’re going to compete with them.”