Whatever works, you go with it.
Before games and practices, the Redmond High softball team forms a circle near the field and partakes in some hacky sack action. The Mustangs get their kicks while knocking the small footbag back and forth with each other. It helps them get loose and relax before switching over to their gloves and bats, said sophomore shortstop Audrey Walker.
Sophomore catcher and University of Washington verbal commit Jennifer Cummings is said to be the best hacky sacker, Walker and some of her teammates said while laughter erupted before practice last Friday.
Cummings brings intensity to the game, much like she and her teammates do when the softball is whipped into play.
At press time, the defending 3A state champions rocked an 11-0 KingCo record and 14-0 overall mark.
Coach Alison Mitchell said she’s blessed to have such a talented group of girls on her side. Everything’s been working for the Mustangs, they’re hitting strong 1-9 in the batting order and the pitching of senior Sophia Viola and junior Kiki Milloy has been lights out.
“It’s kind of hard to know what’s gonna happen on any given day, but it’s nice to see that no matter what happens, the team is always there for each other,” Mitchell said. “We preach to the kids, since I’ve been here, that your regular season record really doesn’t matter. All it does is get you in the playoffs. If you can put yourself in the position to go to the playoffs, then you’re set, ‘cause that’s when it matters the most.”
The Mustangs’ stats are astounding. At press time, Viola and Milloy had a combined 1.29 earned-run average; the squad had a .603 on-base percentage and .862 slugging percentage; and the bats were on full-blast mode in the sturdy hands of Cummings (.724 with four homers and 30 RBIs), Milloy (.667 with 11 homers and 30 RBIs), Walker (.568), sophomore Camille Eaton (.545), junior Haley Hanson (.556), sophomore Kaia Bradford (.500) and junior Lindsay Tsujikawa (.436).
Eaton, who plays second base, nailed down what’s been keeping the Mustangs on a winning flow this season.
“On the field, we really work well together and we’ve grown this bond, and I think that we know how each other is gonna play and are confident in how they’re gonna perform,” she said. “I’ve gotten so much better at communicating with my team and everything in general.”
She noted with her eyes peeking out from under her visor, that the on-field lessons spill into the school scenario where teamwork is crucial with group projects in the classroom.
Added Milloy: “We have a target on our back, but I think we’re embracing it instead of falling under the pressure. Our bats are hot, our defense is playing phenomenal. We’re playing as a family. Alison always talks about buying in, and I think we all are just really buying in and trusting the process.”
When it’s game time, the girls dart out onto the field with encouraging messages like, “This is our time, we’re gonna give it our all and show the other team what we’re made of,” Milloy said.
Mitchell brings Cummings into the picture when it comes to the Mustangs laying it all on the line each game. If players are confident and aggressive, good things will happen.
“(She’s) the textbook version of, if you wanna get better at something, you really need to work at it,” said Mitchell of Cummings, who is stronger than ever at swinging the bat and snapping off throws to the bases from behind the plate.
Although her players are generally humble when they make a big play, Mitchell is trying to get them to unleash what she calls “productive emotions,” which is loudly celebrating a special moment and inspiring others to come along for the ride.
Everyone gets a piece of the success, and Mitchell praised her invaluable seniors Viola, Mara Kipnis, Shelby Curry, Emily Drotz and Niamh Sheehy for getting their jobs done.
Kipnis, who will play softball at Williams College in Massachusetts next year, hopes to pave the way to success for her younger teammates.
“I feel like as one of the older players, it’s my job to show people what it’s gonna be like to come into these high-pressure situations,” said Kipnis, who plays third base.
The soon-to-be Redmond High graduate said she’s experienced four memorable years at school and with her teammates and hopes they can keep the Mustang machine rolling.
“We always say, don’t take any team lightly, don’t ever underestimate a team. Be confident in your abilities and know that any time we’re out on the field, we have the capability to beat any team that we face,” she added.
Walker said she’s benefited from playing with and against older girls the last two years on the high-school level.
“I feel like a lot of stuff that I’ve learned in the past two years is being able to trust myself and my teammates a lot,” she said.
It’s serious on the field, but sometimes, not so much.
“I feel like a lot of it’s really goofy,” Walker said. “In the dugout, I feel like we’re always joking around. Obviously staying focused a lot during games because that’s important, but a lot of it’s also making sure that we’re having fun.”