‘One game at a time’

Published 9:57 pm Thursday, March 22, 2012

Members of the Lakeland Lady Cavaliers softball team get some infield work during a recent practice. Coach Steve Wood is determined that the team will finish well this season.

By Titus Mohler
Correspondent

After a heartbreaking loss to end last season, the 2012 Lakeland softball team is determined to prevent history from repeating itself.

A simple expectation governs the team this year.

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“Win one game at a time,” head coach Steve Wood said.

Though familiar, it is a statement that likely has greater meaning after all of last season came down to one dramatic game.

Wood is in his 10th year of coaching at Lakeland. His strategy to improve on last year’s finish involves consistency and a focus on the essentials. The yearly roster changes that are a feature of school sports will not affect that.

“Our approach won’t change,” Wood said. “We just want to hit the ball well and play defense well and take it one game at a time, and it’ll all shake out in the end. Twenty-one outs a game — I know that sounds cliché-ish, but if you play those, the fundamentals, and the basics all right then it’ll all work out in the end.”

Wood’s goals for where he wants the team to be at the end of the year reveal how much the end of last season weighs on his mind.

“We’d like to be in the top six, that way we can go to the playoffs,” he said. “That was the deal last year. In the last game of the season, we were in a win-and-you’re-in game with us and our cross-town rival, Nansemond River.”

Ending games strong has been a theme of this year’s coaching, and that showdown against Nansemond River highlighted the need for it.

“If they won, they got to go to the playoffs,” he said. “If we won, we got to go to the playoffs, and we went into extra innings and we lost by a run. So, everything we’ve been talking about this year has been about finishing, finishing each game, finishing everything. That way we don’t come up short.”

Getting off to a good start can certainly help and the team has done just that this season. After finishing last year with an 8-12 record, the Cavs were 2-0 in their first week, with victories over Western Branch and Oscar Smith.

“Nice wins for us,” Wood said. “In each one of those games we had 13 hits, I think, and each one of them we had 32 at-bats. We’re nearly .450 in hitting right now.”

Wood also noted a specific area where the team needed improvement.

“Our problem has been that we have stranded a few (base runners) in some key situations, and we’ve certainly been working on that one a little, trying to get the girls to be able to hit with girls on base and get them in,” he said.

However, he did not ignore the obvious strength that having such a problem implies.

“We’ve done real good about getting girls on (base),” he said.

Returning standouts include Jackelyn Wood at shortstop, Vici Treat at third base, and Valerie Treat at first base.

Among the new players to watch are Sarah Bowyer, a transfer student from Isle of Wight Academy who plays catcher, and Brooke Mizelle, a freshman and travel ball player who bolsters the pitching staff this year.

“It’s a great group of girls. They all work well together, they talk well together,” he said.