Lady Plainsmen enter 2012 season with optimism

In 2011, the Frank Philips College Lady Plainsmen softball team reached a milestone for the program in qualifying for the Region V Tournament for the first time in school history.Due to having seven returning sophomores, a promising group of freshmen, and a good-looking field, it should come as no surprise that Lady Plainsmen Head Softball Coach Lucas Grider and Assistant Coach Katrin Florence have a good sense of optimism for what is in score for the 2012 season.Grider steps in as head coach of the FPC Softball program after former head coach Jenneffer Kohler took a coaching position in her home state of California. But the transition from Kohler to Grider so far has been smooth, due to Grider serving as an assistant coach for the team last season.Going into this year, Grider said a lot of the same things Kohler worked to instill into the program are things he is continuing to do as well. But as expected with a new coach, there are some changes. Grider said, “I didn’t view taking over the team as trying to reinvent the wheel, but one of the things I have done different is making sure we are practicing with a purpose. For me that means spending time working on small things such as being quicker in making plays on the field.” Grider also said he has focused on making sure there is a positive atmosphere within the program. Grider said he is quick to point out areas the players need to improve on, but at the same time lets the players know when they are doing a good job.As far as what to expect to see on the field, Grider said people should expect to see a confident team and one that is determined to get back to the regional tournament and make some noise. He said, “There is no question making it to the regional tournament was a big accomplishment for this team. However, all of the sophomores have came back hungry to do more, which has resulted in each of them looking a lot better than last season.”Offensively, Grider expects to have a balanced line up of players who can put the ball in play or hit with some power. Sophomore Breanna O’Leary is a solid slap hitter who should see time at the top of the batting order, ahead of some strong hitters in sophomores Janelle Smith, Ashlie Odle, Arleen Alamanza, and freshman Lucinda Ponce.The outfield will be an area of depth for the team with four sophomores that include Smith, O’Leary, Christina Florence, and Clarendon College transfer Christine Blankenship, along with freshman Brianna Rodriguez.Alamanza and Ponce will anchor the Lady Plainsmen infield along with sophomore Sabrina Martinez and freshmen Marlena Cisneros, and Madilyne Logan. Odle and freshman Madlin Dorhofer will split time behind the plate at catcher.In the pitcher’s circle, sophomore Cheyenne Ford and freshman Ashley Abair give the Lady Plainsmen a pair of arms that Grider described as not being real overpowering but being able to do a good job finding the strike zone and being able to use the fielders behind them to get batters out.When Grider was asked about goals for the team, the coach quickly brought out a list of achievements the players put down as goals for the season. Things on the list included winning 16 games, .300 team batting average, finishing fifth place or higher in the WJCAC standings, and a 3.4 or better team GPA in the classroom.Grider likes the goals his team has set out for the 2012 season, but added he expects to see a team which plays with a purpose in every game.The Lady Plainsmen open the 2012 tomorrow taking on Western Oklahoma College in Altus, Okla., in a doubleheader and will play their home opener on Saturday hosting Otero Junior College at 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.