COLUMBUS, Neb. – While the CCC softball team may have brand new facilities this season, they also bring many key players back from last year.
The Lady Raiders, loaded with returning starters, are set to open their season next week. The team has had the added benefit of practicing in a new indoor facility, inside IC Church.
Coach Jack Gutierrez says it is a major improvement from the gymnasium they have used during the past cold winters, and that they are considerably more prepared for the season this time around.
“Probably 75 percent more, just the fact that we can make some long throws and hit some hard ground balls to the girls and pitch, we extend the pitching rubber and they can extend themselves pitching,” says Gutierrez.
CCC went 16-33 in the 2017 campaign, but Gutierrez is optimistic that his defense will guide the squad to more victories this year.
“Our outfielders are fast, we have three fast outfielders that cover a lot of ground. Our shortstop Mackenzie Eller is really solid, probably as good as we’ve had at Central over the years and we’ve had some good ones,” says Gutierrez.
The Lady Raiders had some struggles on the rubber last year, but with one returner and another fresh face, Gutierrez hopes to contain more teams this season and win close games.
“We’ve got a good experienced sophomore in Katelyn Keene and then Ashten Gibson is a pretty good pitcher, a freshman from Wayne, so those two will carry the load,” says Gutierrez.
As for how far they can go, the team set their sights high, first trying to win the region and then advance to nationals, something that’s never been done before in school history.
CCC will travel to Texas next week for a tournament and hopes to open up their season in Columbus on February 28th on a brand new turf field.