Nobody in the softball world has ever questioned the talent on Mandeville High's softball team, where four seniors already have signed collegiate scholarships.
The question is why that talent hasn’t equated to more success on the field.
Entering the 2018 season under the leadership of new coach Kim Nunez, the MHS seniors believe the time to live up to expectations has arrived.
“We know the time is now,” senior Sara Geier said. “Especially for this senior class. I think it is hitting us that this is the last 'first time' we are doing things. The last picture day, the last scrimmage and the last first game of the regular season. We are looking to leave our mark and want 2018 to be special.”
Geier headlines a banner senior group for the Skippers. The McNeese State signee hit .378 a season ago and was a solid arm in the circle for Mandeville, compiling a 12-1 record with a 1.08 ERA. In 71 innings of work, she struck out 51 and allowed only 47 hits.
Another senior, Alysa Straughan, who signed with Coastal Alabama Community College, said the changes Nunez has brought to the team are already being felt in a positive way.
“I’ll admit at first I didn’t really know how to react to having our third different head coach in as many years,” Straughan said. “But Coach Nunez has really implemented some changes that have really seemed to have taken off.
“The biggest one is the practice schedule. We are practicing less time-wise, but going harder. Having a more efficient practice has been great. The other thing is that it keeps us fresh. Everybody knows that the season is a marathon, not a sprint.”
The leading hitter for the Skippers last season was Amberlyn Alfano. A signee with Southeastern Louisiana University, Alfano hit .411 and drove in 24 runs.
“This is much more of a team this season,” Alfano said. “This squad wants to win games. We want to go to Sulphur and the state tournament, and we want to win the district championship."
Another important factor in making that happen is the success of young players like Savannah Helter (.357 average last season), Taylor Broddick (.381 average) and Grace O’Berry (13-6 in the circle with a 1.50 ERA).
“It can’t just be the senior class that is doing this. We are going to do our part on and off the field, but we are old enough and mature enough to realize that it is going to take the entire team, the nine players on the field and everybody in the dugout, each and every game if we are going to reach our goals in 2018," Alfano said.
While Alfano was the leading hitter last season, another senior, Anna Grace Magee, a Memphis signee, is expected to provide the pop in the lineup. Hitting .407 in 2017, Magee led the team in home runs (7), RBI (39) and was second in total bases (66).
“Can this team win a district championship?” Magee asked. “Absolutely, the talent is there. It is going to be a fun ride this season, and I will try and do everything I can to try and help it go on for quite a while.”
The final senior, Caitlyn Plaisance, who hit .333 in 33 at bats last season, will also help provide the leadership for the Skippers.
After scrimmages against Mount Carmel on Feb. 7 and Belle Chasse on Feb. 15, and participating in the Fontainebleau jamboree on Feb. 16-17, the Skippers open the regular season at home Feb. 21 against Destrehan.