“They’re doing a great job,” Poel, a .308 hitter through 10 games, said of the freshmen on this year’s team. “They’re very resilient and we’ve been teaching them to have good team morale. They’re really sprucing up the dugout cheering and they’ve really stepped up this year because a lot of seniors graduated.”
Bolden likes how Skala, Poel and Pace have stepped up and assumed leadership roles.
“That’s been huge because the kids are following their leadership and it shows,” Bolden said. “We make errors and we make mistakes just like any team, but these kids have been there to pick them up.”
Skala compiled a 4-2 record in her first six starts, and opponents have hit just .098 off her. She’s struck out 75 in 38 innings. Mendoza and Aldridge have complemented Skala on the mound, with both sporting winning records so far.
“I coached her in sixth through eighth grade and then here in high school,” said Bolden, referring to Skala. “She’ll get us out of tough spots. That’s what we ask of our pitchers. We tell them, ‘You know what? We’re going to try our best to get you two outs, but we need you sometimes to get us that one.’ She’ll dig deep and do it.”
Meanwhile, coach Jen Pomatto’s Lions are starting five underclassmen this season. A recent lineup had a freshman and two sophomores—Maddie Smith, Tiffany Harmon and Anna Palicka, respectively—at the top of the order. Palicka and junior Melissa Erickson are the Lions’ top two pitchers, and juniors Erica Krause and Jennifer Cail have been contributing offensively.
Pomatto, whose Lions were a Class 2A state semifinalist in 2011 and advanced to the supersectionals in 2012, is hoping that a stretch of games last week going into this week in which Lisle played seven in five days will help her team gel.
“This is an opportunity for us to get into a groove and play,” she said. “Our team is young so we need to be working more together. We don’t play during spring break because of trips and stuff. That hurts us because we haven’t gotten that many games in so what I told the girls that we need a good stretch of games.
“What I’ve told these girls is we’ve got be playing our best softball for postseason and they’re going to be together for a few years. They’ve got to continue to work and set short-term goals and long-term goals.”