If your team is behind, you get the competitive juices flowing and find a way to forge a comeback.
For the last three years, Redmond High’s softball had a taste of that scenario when the postseason rolled around and wedged its way into the 4A state tournament. The Mustangs grabbed leads and held on for victories as well, all the while keeping opponents on their toes during big games.
“I think a lot of what we’ve learned is communication, talking is the key to the game,” said senior first baseman Taylor Ray while teammates smacked balls around during indoor batting practice on Tuesday.
“Just always staying up, always competing. We’ve learned that even if you’re down by five, three hits can get you back in the game.”
This spring, Redmond will get swinging in the 3A KingCo Conference and first-year head coach Alison Mitchell’s team runs the grade gamut with three seniors, two juniors, five sophomores and four freshmen. Each player has something crucial to offer and Mitchell — who was former head coach Paris Mamon’s assistant for the last four years — said everyone’s looking forward to playing in the new classification.
Mitchell is familiar with Juanita and Lake Washington’s teams, but will figure out the others when the schedule unfolds.
“My motto with the girls, especially with a lot of the freshmen is, I’m a big believer (of) I’ll just throw you in the deep end and figure out if you can swim,” Mitchell said with a smile. “So it’s kind of what we’re doing at 3A. It’s nice to come in with a fresh start.”
Redmond — which was 1-0 in league and 2-2 overall at press time — recently received some great advice from former Mustang Kaija Gibson, who graduated last year and is now playing for the University of Washington squad. According to Mitchell, Gibson told the girls that there will be struggles, but they’ve got to keep their heads up and continue growing and getting better to make it to the postseason.
“They know what it takes to get to state, they understand the work that has to go into it,” Mitchell added.
Senior outfielder Keona Tibbs said the players are excited to get 3A KingCo play underway.
“Our strengths are our bond as a team. We’re all really close, even the younger ones — we’ve brought them in and made them a huge part of the team and (we’ve) really integrated well with the new kids,” she said.
Starting with pitching, Redmond has a one-two punch in junior Sophia Viola and sophomore Kiki Milloy. It’s a good blend of Milloy’s power and Viola’s finesse to throw teams off balance, Mitchell said. While one pitcher deals with opponents, the other will be ready to go if needed.
Mitchell can throw the pitchers into any situation and trust them, and since they know they have each other waiting in the wings, it extinguishes any mental stress they may be facing, she said.
Offensively, junior third baseman Mara Kipnis carries a powerful bat and cranked a league-leading 15 homers last season.
Redmond’s one through four hitters — sophomore outfielder Allison Wells, sophomore second baseman Haley Hanson, Milloy and Kipnis — will kick things off with versatility and speed.
“So I’ve got fast, fast, faster and then I’ve got a power hitter with relatively good speed, too,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell noted that everything else will flow from there and everyone — 10 returners and the newcomers — is ready to contribute to a successful season.
Freshmen Jennifer Cummings and Audrey Walker have earned starting slots at catcher and shortstop, respectively.
Senior first baseman Hannah Winner said the Mustangs have already come a long way since they started practices and the possibilities are endless.
“We know in a couple weeks after we’ve gotten a lot of games under our belt, we know we’ll have to be playing at our best in order to go into the postseason well,” she said.
“We’ll definitely have a shot at going to state.”
• In Redmond’s 16-1 victory over Liberty on Wednesday, the Mustangs received copious hits up and down the lineup.