Leading The Pack: Brighton High School Softball
Apr 07, 2016 11:46AM
● By Sarah Almond
By Sarah Almond | [email protected]
Cottonwood - Holladay - As the snow begins to melt and the temperatures start to rise, the 20-some girls on the Brighton High School softball team gear up for the start of their 2016 season. Though the team officially started practice on Feb. 29, most of the girls have been attending open gym every day for the past five months. This dedication and team unity is something that Sam Puich has yet to see in his three years as head coach.
“My first year here, I just let it be status-quo to see what the culture was like and everything,” Puich said. “Then I cleaned house, so last year I had 19 freshmen out of 26 players. We are still very young. We have two seniors and two juniors and the rest of the team will be sophomores and freshmen.”
Fortunately, seven of the nine field positions last season were started by freshmen, meaning a majority of this year’s group has a full year of experience starting for varsity. Considering the youthfulness of this year’s team, Puich knew he needed a maxim that would encapsulate the team’s foundational ethics and goals. For this, he turned to senior Alex Burrola, who has played varsity for Brighton since she was a freshman.
“I let Alex come up with a motto and she said ‘lead the pack.’ The idea behind this is that I don’t want to have just one captain of the team. I want all of the kids to learn to lead,” Puich said. “So if they get into trouble on the field, instead of giving up or getting frustrated, they’ll figure out a way to lead.”
“I was actually watching an inspirational video on Twitter,” Burrola said. “The video was saying, ‘If you throw me out to the wolves, I’ll come back leading the pack,’ and we’re looking at it like, if you strike out or make an error on the field, sure you got ‘thrown out to the wolves,’ but come back stronger, come back leading. We really want to have a team of leaders.”
Puich credits much of the team’s camaraderie and harmony on the field to their “lead the pack” motto. In fact, he says he’s seeing the team evolve like never before.
“The biggest difference I’m seeing this year is maturity,” Puich said. “Sometimes I’d rather have maturity over athletic ability and our maturity has really grown quickly.”
Most of the girls on the varsity team have also been playing softball together for years, both on summer club and travel teams. Not only has this created a unique bond of trust for the girls on the Brighton team, but players also agree that it has established a sense of equality and respect.
“We all look at each other as equals,” senior Morganne Cope said. “A freshman could definitely come in and take our spot or a junior’s spot, and it’s kinda scary but it’s also amazing because you can tell just from the way they are, that they are leaders on the field.”
Although Puich is unsure of what to expect as the season gets underway, he’s drawing on last year’s results and preparing for a tough season against solid teams in a difficult region.
“We are in a real tough region and last year I saw teams beat us pretty badly in the first round,” Puich said. “Then when we played them again, we took many teams into extra innings, lost 2–1, and things like that. I saw major improvements as we played and I hope that just keeps progressing this season.”
In order to keep improving, the Bengals are working tirelessly to improve their hitting skills. With a .381 batting average last season, Brighton was just slightly above the national average.
“Last year it was a matter of getting comfortable with seeing the speed of the pitch that they’ve never seen before,” Puich said. “Now that they are comfortable with it, we want to get them to where they are making good contact with the ball and scoring runs. That’s our main emphasis.”
With hopes of making it to the 5A state championships on May 17, the Bengals are well aware of the progress they need to make and the effort they need to contribute in order to succeed in their goal.
“This is a whole new year and we have a fresh team coming in,” Burrola said. “As seniors who have been here for four years, we are ready to take advantage of the leadership role and change things around here so we can be successful and make it to state. We’re ready to leave a legacy.”
The Bengals play their last home game against Jordan High School on May 5 at 3:30 p.m.