By Dan Hardenbrook

Longtime Newberry softball Coach Bruce Dake has seen his fair share of preseason sessions, but he’s never seen a preseason quite like this.

A mild winter had the softball team expecting to practice outside much sooner than usual, and those extra reps on the field would’ve been crucial. Then spring took a break and snow returned, pushing players back inside where practices are often limited.

“Practicing in the gym has its challenges, ” says Dake, who returns for his 21st season as Lady Indians Head Coach. “There is only so much we can do, so we have been focused on the fundamentals.”

Dake is focused on the positives: inexperienced players don’t have bad habits to break.

“They are a blank slate and absorb instruction quickly,” Dake said. “But we do need to get outside for fielding, pitching and hitting outside.”

The Lady Indians expect to have 15 girls this season, with a blend of six seniors, four juniors, one sophomore, and four freshmen. A returning group of players that’s already had plenty of success this school year and a rapidly developing supporting cast are coming together nicely in preseason practices.

The returnees include Trenidy Depew, Gracie Taylor, Alazayah Depew, Lilly Heim, Amelia Shanley, and Allie Whalen. Dake says their leadership is helping the team to grow confidence.

“Our new seniors are very athletic and are learning quickly,” Dake said. “It helps to have some exchange students who seem to excel at all sports. Our sophomore and freshmen are also quite athletic and are improving their skill level.”

Dake expects speed to be the team’s strong suit this year.

He also credits his coaching staff for help getting things to mesh quickly. Haley Stark and John Schneider will be assisting Dake, and he says they bring plenty of enthusiasm and have already blended well with the team.

“Our focus this year from our coaching staff is making sure players have a skill set to give them confidence to handle any game situation,” he said. “Our goal is to get better each day. We play in a district with Brimley, Pickford, Rudyard, and St. Ignace. Every year we want to build up and peak at district time and see where that takes us.”