If there was a team to strive to be like on the softball field this year, it was the University of Alabama. The Crimson Tide had it all — great pitching, strong defense, solid hitting up and down the lineup — and that translated into a lot of wins on the softball field.
So when Horseshoe Bend coach Hagen Whiteard was looking for a way to build some team chemistry, she decided to take her girls on a road trip.
“I was at the gym one morning watching a replay of one of (Alabama’s games), and I just thought it would be so much fun to take the girls,” Whiteard said.
Although Horseshoe Bend didn’t quite live up to the same standard the girls in crimson and white did, the Generals certainly got better and better throughout the season. And by the end, they seemed to truly enjoy playing on the diamond. For that, Whiteard is 2019 Outlook Softball Coach of the Year.
“We stayed on them pretty hard early in the season,” Whiteard said. “I questioned myself sometimes if I was being too hard on them. But we as coaches just saw so much light and potential in them but they couldn’t execute it in a game. When they finally did, they started seeing it in themselves. Then everything we had been preaching started coming easy.”
Especially defensively, Horseshoe Bend improved all year long. One Achilles heel for the Generals was they always seemed to have one bad inning.
RELATED: 2019 All-Outlook Softball Team
Everything would be going along nicely but when one thing went wrong, that multiplied into several errors and things would snowball out of control.
They seemed to get that under control though in the later part of the season. Horseshoe Bend finished the year with 137 total errors but had only 46 in the final month of the season.
“That goes back to them finally seeing they could do it and building that confidence,” Whiteard said. “Once they built that confidence in themselves and once they were doing that in a game, it was hard to get things by them. Our defense really came together toward the middle of the season.”
The offense, however, was never much of a problem. As a team, the Generals batted .318 during the season and had seven of their regular starters finish with a batting average above .300 for the year.
“We spent a lot of time doing basic fundamental things at the plate,” Whiteard said. “I think they woud actually get tired of it at times because we spent a lot of time on the tee. But ultimately it paid off in the end and it’s something we’ll focus on this upcoming season. You can have a bad day on defense but if you can be solid at the plate, you’ll win ballgames.”
After getting better and better throughout the season, Horseshoe Bend really put it all together during the area tournament. Despite losing to area rival Reeltown twice during the regular season, Horseshoe Bend was not going to be stopped in the area tournament. The Generals put up back-to-back wins over the Rebels to claim the title.
“That was just so much fun,” Whiteard said. “They enjoyed it and we enjoyed it. It was just so much adrenaline. I went home and crashed that night. It was so emotionally overwhelming.”
Although HBS graduated three seniors from last year’s squad, it returns a lot and even had some seventh- and eighth-graders playing varsity in 2019. Whiteard is hopeful that means the Generals should be good for some time to come.