It’s a whole new world for Miners |

It’s a whole new world for Miners

John Hart
ALL | GrassValleyArchive

It is one thing to say the approach to Nevada Union’s softball season will be more optimistic than last year.

It is quite another, however, to say the season will include more wins, and if all goes right, perhaps a long-awaited trip to the playoffs.

And yet, with two preseason games and two wins under its belt, the Lady Miners’ softball team this year seems to be wasting no time in turning talk of vast improvement into action.

First-year varsity coach Ray Fowler saw evidence of the promise of the season in the first game of the year against Colfax. Down 4-0 against a team that had defeated them during 2001’s 8-21-2 campaign, the Lady Miners did not return to the dugout in silence.

Nor did they grouse about plays too late to change. According to Fowler, they returned to the dugout flat out stating that they were going to win the game.

And that they did.

NU fought back to top Colfax, 6-4, then defeated Golden Sierra 8-1 to kick off a season that will require the Lady Miners to face perennial power El Camino in the first Capital Athletic League game March 12.

“This year’s team is really ready to win,” first baseman Darcy Hanson said. “The excitement and readiness of the girls is overwhelming. We are going to show what the program can do, starting anew.”

Though Fowler is new to varsity coaching, he has taught the sport to some of the players as far back as Nevada City Little League softball eight years ago. According to the players, the familiar face at the top only helps solidify the unity this year’s squad is determined to maintain.

“He is my favorite coach in the world,” pitcher Kari Bauman said. “He is really a people person, which makes it comfortable for us. We really like to play to win for him.”

Fowler inherits a handful of experienced seniors, including three-year starter Laria Blodgett, who has moved from second to shortstop this year. Added to that is another handful of players from last year’s junior varsity team coached by Fowler that went 18-8, and returning sophomore pitcher Amanda Poteet, who already has a win and save to her credit.

Fowler said enough ingredients are there to make talk of a possible playoff berth more than wishful thinking.

“How we play against El Camino and Casa Roble will say a lot,” Fowler said. “If we play solid defense and our pitchers can hold them down, and if we beat them, there will be no stopping us.”

In softball, success begins – and sometimes ends – with the battery. Catcher Megan Hopkins is a returning starter who is expected to hit clean-up this season. She will catch what will basically be a two-person starting rotation of returning starters Bauman and Poteet.

“Amanda has great control, and Kari only allowed one run in six innings in the win over Golden Sierra,” Fowler said. “We’re not overpowering with our pitching – more control than anything else.”

Poteet has worked year-round to improve both velocity and control of her five-pitch (fastball, riser, change, curve and screwball) assortment.

“Last year was a big learning year for me, going up against varsity level players,” Poteet said. “They are more experienced, their form is better. I think I’ve learned what I need to learn, so now I am just expanding on that.”

Almost to a player, the girls look forward to next week’s leap into CAL play versus El Camino. Though it is merely the first game of a 14-game CAL slate, it could serve as a giant first step toward an improved season, and beyond.

“I’ve been here four years, and (the post-season) hasn’t been there,” said Hopkins, a senior. “That would be a good way to go out – making the playoffs.”

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