Lady Devils driving for playoff berth this season
GYPSUM – When Eagle Valley softball coach Brad Stiles gets ready for a softball season, he is really preparing his girls for the postseason.
The Devils won their 3A Western Slope division with a 4-0 league record last year. And, though, they didn’t travel far in the postseason, it has become a common theme for the Lady Devils to reach the state level at the end of every season.
Eagle Valley lost four seniors to graduation, but it has 10 returning lettermen, including five seniors, one junior and four sophomores.
The Devils have finished their second week of practice, and things are looking good.
“We’ve been improving every night,” said Stiles. “Our downfall last year was that we lacked consistent intensity. We were intense at times, and we’d do really well. But, other times, we struggled.
“This year, we’ve been a lot more intense in practice, while still having a good time.”
The returning seniors include shortstop Jessica Jagger, pitcher Sara LyBarger, third baseman/outfielder Brianna Ehlert and catcher Suzy Moore.
“I think we’re as strong as we were last year,” said Stiles. “If a few people step it up a bit, we’ll probably be stronger this year. Most of the young kids have another year under their belts, and they know more what to expect.”
The Devils return from a successful year, in which they put up a 7-12 record, including some games against 4A teams. They expected 26-30 players to come out for softball this year, but only 20 heard the call.
“We would like to have a few more,” said Stiles. “But, as long as they all remain eligible and healthy, we should be fine.”
The Devils’ strength, so far, appears to be their defense.
“If there’s one thing that we include in every practice, it’s defense,” said Stiles. “We’ll probably be bunting and running more hit-and-run situations this year. I think the girls are handling the bat better than last year, and we have more speed that we’re going to try and take advantage of.”
Eagle Valley has a strong coaching staff supporting Stiles, featuring assistant coach Mariann LyBarger, pitching-coach Bill Beasley and self-proclaimed “team mom” Kindra Stiles.
“I’m looking forward to a good year,” said Brad Stiles. “I think we’re going to do well in league play, and I think we’ll go to state again.”
Andrew Harley can be contacted at (970) 949-0555 ext. 608 or at email@example.com.