Sydney Adair and Sara Kate Thompson feel like old ladies.
Along with Macy Nordquist, Adair and Thompson are veterans on the 2018 Heritage Academy fast-pitch softball team that will look to continue to improve in its second season under coach Justin Flake.
“We’re bringing everybody back except two, so I’m feeling a lot more confident,” said Adair, a junior. “I just feel confident I can pitch and my defense can back me up.”
This will be the second season Adair works with Thompson as a battery. She said she has practiced her pitching since the end of the 2017 season. She hopes the training will help her shoulder the responsibility of setting the example for her younger teammates.
“I had good leaders when I was in sixth, seventh, and eighth grade, so I’m trying to be like they were to me when I was little,” Adair said. “I want these girls to look up to me.”
Adair recalls the older players helping her and coaching them through situations when she joined the team. She believes she has grown a good bit, especially in hitting and defense. Adair also said she feels more confident she can hit her spots when she is in the circle.
Thompson, who is a sophomore, plays basketball with Adair. She said they have a “fun” relationship that helps them connect when they are on the softball field. Like Adair, she hopes to play a key role in what she called a “growing season” for the program.
“I think, for the most part, our hitting is really good this year,” Thompson said. “We have worked really hard on that. I think this is a year for growing for our defense because we will have such young girls out there and (we are) trying to find positions to fill where those older girls were (and) are going to be big shoes to fill.”
In 2017, Flake was completing a transition from Winston Academy and arrived right as the Heritage Academy softball team was beginning its season. Flake, who also coaches the Heritage Academy baseball team, worked with assistant coach Chris Ball and was back and forth between Jackson and Columbus for a few weeks before the campaign started.
“Everything was warp speed last season,” Flake said.
Flake said the march to this season has been equally fast because of the number of things going on in the summer prior to the start of the athletic season and the first day of school. He said the players are soaking up everything the coaches are trying to teach. Flake said it is encouraging that the younger players are so receptive to everything being taught.
“That is the fun part about it,” Flake said. “The best part about coaching is the teaching aspect of it and seeing them soak it up and use it in the game. That’s why you do what you do.”
Nordquist, who has been playing on the team since she was in middle school, will start at shortstop. Aside from the experience of Adair and Thompson at pitcher and catcher, Flake said the Lady Patriots will be young and will have several middle schoolers competing for varsity positions on a roster that features 18 players.
Despite the youth, Flake said he doesn’t want to set the bar low for the program. He said he and Ball have stressed controlling what they can control, especially playing aggressively and playing hard so the game situations will be easier.
Thompson and Adair like what they have seen in practice and are eager to assume leadership of the team with Nordquist.
“It all starts with us,” Adair said. “We need to be positive. If we pitch strikes and have quick defensive innings, we will come off the field definitely hot in the offense and have more energy and, hopefully, get more base hits and win more ballgames.”
Said Thompson said, “This year we need to work on having a good outlook toward a bad play and talking the young girls up.”
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor
Adam Minichino is the former Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.