WHITE PLAINS — White Plains had one attribute this year that head coach Rachel Ford said none of her previous teams can match.
“I was really proud of the chemistry that the team had,” the coach said. “They seemed to encourage each other more than usual and stay positive throughout the year. I was really proud of that because it was a focus of ours. I would say that’s something that set this team apart from those in the past.”
Pitcher Anna Snider said the team maintained friendships off the field, as well, and perhaps that helped the on-the-field performance, which was exceptional.
The Wildcats won the Calhoun County softball tournament for the second time in three years and advanced to the Class 3A state tournament for the fourth straight season, finishing fourth and completing the season with a 40-8-1 record. For leading her team to such a big year, Ford is The Anniston Star’s Calhoun County 3A softball coach of the year.
On the field, White Plains nailed down the fundamentals, which was a key element to the season. Ford sometimes tested her team in practice with something she calls “the eight-minute drill.”
The Wildcats would take ground balls and flyballs for eight minutes, and the goal was to make 60 outs.
“If they don’t reach 60 outs, then there are consequences,” Ford said. “It’s a high-tempo drill that really focuses on fundamentals. Everybody is involved and paying attention, and when you put the spotlight on each girl I feel like it helps them for later in the year when they need to make plays.
“We really focused at practice on fundamentals and staying low to the ground. We take pride in short hops and fielding balls that a lot of people don’t want to field. We want to make the other team earn runs, and I’m really proud of the girls. The work they put in at practice showed when they played in the games.”
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.