2021 SOFTBALL PREVIEW
The yellow balls are back as the Lady Wolves return for the 2021 season.
Loranger Softball is BACK!
LORANGER—With yellow-colored balls being tossed around again on high school campuses, there is a hint that spring is not far off and softball season has begun. Practice has started and for Coach Jake Abdalla and the Loranger Lady Wolves. Excited to get back on the field and the Loranger Ladies have a renewed appreciation for the sport they play after last season was cut short by the pandemic.
“We had a good little team last season, and we are going to miss the seniors we had,” said Loranger head softball coach Jake Abdalla. “I had some good athletes on that teams last year. This year I have a good group of girls, but only have three seniors so over half the team is freshmen and sophomores. They are all really excited about being on the field and that eagerness makes them coachable athletes. They want to learn and appreciate a chance to play the game. As coaches you love a group that will listen and try to do everything you ask, and eventually with this kind of attitude they are going to be better than when they started.”
With the loss of much of the season last year, the game experience and normal development and maturing that comes with lots of practice and playing was lost and is challenge for all coaches as they return to the field. “There is no quick fix for the time lost,” said Abdalla. “You just have to go to work. We have an eager group and some returning starters who know what we as coaches expect so the majority of our girls are ready and that makes the short time we have to prepare more productive.”
“We will be young this year with as many as seven starters are underclassmen,” explained Abdalla. “Athletically the freshmen that came to us this year are going to be good and can help us some right away. As I have said from the beginning I want to build this program and regardless of what grade a player is in if she can play then she will play.”
Loranger softball has seen some growth since Abdalla and his staff took over the program. “Our numbers have been going up the last couple of years,” said Abdalla. “More girls here are interested and are trying out. Our parish is growing in having rec and travel ball programs and some facilities to train, but we still have a lot of growing to do to catch up to what you have in other areas.”
Abdalla played and coached baseball for many years and his approach remains the same while acknowledging there are differences in softball and baseball. “The speed of the game and a lack of knowledge of the game is what I see as differences when moving from coaching baseball to softball at our school,” said Abdalla. “Most of girls in this area play rec ball rather than travel ball where you often develop a little more knowledge of the game. It is often a big jump coming from junior high to high school softball. We have twenty girls and I could probably make a travel team out of about a third of them. The rest are still learning the game. When we are given two weeks prior to the season to get ready, it takes every bit of that time to get them ready.”
“I like the speed of the softball game,” continued Abdalla. “It is more exciting for me. I love baseball and played it all my life and coached it but there are some baseball games that seem like they will never be over. It is like watching paint dry. Softball is constant. The game is always moving. The layout of the field is much shorter. A softball pitch gets on you quick and often even the boys find out making contact with a well-thrown softball is not so easy. A baseball game may drag out for three hours whereas most softball games are done in less than ninety minutes especially if you have a god ace on the mound, you can get through a game quick. I coach softball the same way I coached baseball.”
Softball is very much a pitcher’s game and for the Lady Wolves they will feature both the young and the old in this key position. “Fortunately this year I have an incoming freshman that can help us and a sophomore that pitched for me last year and of course my senior,” said Abdalla. “And, believe it or not I am not going to rely on my senior because she is also my starting third baseman. She is going to be my relief. We will expect more out of our younger pitchers this season. We are not going to overpower anybody but they throw strikes, and I am going to load up the defense behind them. We will need to limit the walks and force batters to put the ball in play so we have a chance to get them out.”
With the graduation of three seniors in 2020, Coach Abdalla is moving girls around in the field changing their positions to build a new defense. “We lost our starting shortstop, third baseman, and centerfielder from last year to graduation,” said Abdalla. “This year my freshman catcher is moving to shortstop and my left fielder is moving to centerfield, and I am putting my first baseman behind the plate to catch. We needed to shore up the middle of the field and my best overall athlete is my shortstop Mia Piller and the good news is she is only a sophomore. With Ashley (Miller) at third alongside Mia at short that will give us a strong left side as well. We are going to give up some hits and they often pull left so we want to protect that side of the field.”
Offense will be a strength for the Lady Wolves as they will be able to play the short game and go yard. “The top of my lineup are all going to be able to bunt, and overall out of nine starters we have six girls that can swing the bat and make consistent contact,” explained Abdalla. “We will actually have some power at the plate this year with Ashley (Miller) and Jordan (Young). Both of these girls can go yard. We also have a couple of incoming freshmen that can give us some production at the plate.”
The Lady Wolves will play a competitive non-district schedule and their district is always tough with a slate of solid programs. “I schedule somewhat based on our skillset,” said Abdalla. “You do not want them to lose that sense of accomplishment because you are getting beat day in and day out. It is has been part of changing the culture of this team. They need to know how it feels to win and also learn to compete against a 5A school. I try to mix in our schedule with schools of all sizes. You have to walk on the field with the confidence that you can win. If you do not have that, you are just shooting yourself in the foot.”
With the pandemic and all the protocols still around players some face challenges off the field as they try to stay on the field. “This is a young group,” said Abdalla. “The seniors are great kids. I never tell our girls how to act once they leave school. You cannot control everything, but this group of girls really wants to play so I believe they are going to do everything they know to do to stay on the field and not get sidelined because of the virus and all the protocols that we follow. This group gets along well and likes each other and will have each other’s backs as best I can tell.”
There was no District champion last season as district games were not played, but heading into this season, Coach Abdalla sees Archbishop Hannan as the favorite. “I think this year Hannan is probably head and shoulder above everybody in the District because they have everyone coming back. Sumner is always good. They have a good softball culture. I know the least about Albany and Bogalusa. Albany had a lot of seniors last year so I do not know what they have coming back but they always seem to have good arms.”