With several returning players from last year’s regional semifinalist team, Hays head softball coach Lisa Cone aims to go even further in 2017.
Despite a relatively young squad, Cone said a pair of scrimmages against 5A powerhouses Dripping Springs and Rouse have shown promise.
Replacing the majority of the infield will be the early season focus for Cone and the Rebel defense.
Cone said senior Lulu Arroyo, along with pitcher Maxine Valdez and catcher Abbie Blackwell are the only returning infielders this season.
Cone said she moved Illiana Cisneros to the shortstop position to fill the void left by Alyssa Martinez, who transferred to Lehman prior to the season. She also moved Brianna Rodriguez from the outfield to first base.
“We have to get used to each other and gel a little bit,” Cone said. “Once we get to that point, we’ll be fine.”
Assisting the Rebels will be the combo of Valdez and Blackwell, who worked with each other last season.
Cone said she could tell that the two are used to each other as battery mates. She said Blackwell is supportive of Valdez, which came into play during a recent scrimmage against San Marcos.
“Whenever Max was struggling to throw strikes, she told Abbie to come out and they talked,” Cone said. “They got on the same page and Max began to throw strikes.”
While Hays works out the kinks on defense, a more aggressive style at the plate will be sought as well.
Cone said the team was taking more pitches and hasn’t “been aggressive at the plate as I want us to be” during the first few scrimmages.
Timely hitting and putting the ball in play, along with scoring runs are key points of emphasis in the early going of the season.
Working to improve on pitchers who have movement is also a short-term goal the team hopes to fix as the season goes on.
“We do well with hard, flat pitching. The spin gives us some trouble,” Cone said. “We need to look at pitches and be aggressive at the plate.”
A new district is also a hurdle that Hays must overcome this season. It will include Lake Travis, Westlake and Lehman, which the Rebels squared off against last season.
Joining the fray are Vista Ridge, which is two years removed from winning the Class 5A championship, Leander and Vista Ridge, which were all part of a vaunted 25-5A district last year.
Despite the challenging district slate, Cone said the run would prepare the Rebels for the possibility of the playoffs.
“I don’t think there’s going to be a team in the district where it will be a walk in the park,” Cone said. “It will be a tough competition every game.”