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The story of this year’s Evergreen softball game is, as a parent put it, one of underdogs, grit, determination, leadership and ultimately a team that joined together after a rocky start.
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With first-year head coach Steve Nuccio at the helm, and with a roster of 10 players, just enough to field a team, they have had a fun and remarkable season to date.
The Cougars had a rocky start at 1-9, with several losses to talented 5A schools. As of Oct. 1, they are 11-11, and 6-1 in 4A league play, beating Alameda and Green Mountain last week. They lost to Conifer 11-5 on Oct. 1 but still have a chance at the conference championship, and they hope to reach regionals and eventually state.
“I just think that we sort of went into this feeling we have nothing to lose,” junior pitcher and first baseman Logan Gaber explained. “We have just said, ‘Let’s just try for it. If it doesn’t happen, that’s OK.’ Now that we are in reach of winning league, I think we’re yearning to go undefeated, but we can’t get overconfident.”
Nuccio said the previous coach scheduled several games against 5A teams to start the season, and the team was overwhelmed.
“It was really challenging and hard to keep momentum,” Nuccio said. “We knew we had talent, and the girls were capable of playing well and performing well. I told them that it’s going to work as along we’re having fun and working hard at practice. Wins will be the byproduct of practices.”
Nuccio said his coaching strategy has been morphing after watching other coaches beat their players down rather than lifting them up.
“We’re not going to do that,” he explained. “We tell them what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, why they move up or down the lineup. They have really responded well to open communication and understanding their role on the team.”
Girls have played different positions depending on the team’s needs and who is available for games.
“We’re communicating with the girls more than I ever have and more they have ever experienced,” Nuccio noted. “We tell them what we need and why.”
His players agree, noting that the communication has helped them focus on playing well and winning.
“We didn’t start off that great, but (Nuccio) has helped us fine-tune and find our place on the team and the role we should be executing,” Gaber said.
Gaber, who has been playing since she was 5, said this season, she’s tried her hand at shortstop, midfield and outfield.
Some of them also have been teammates for years on competitive teams, which helps with camaraderie.
“So we have trust in each other,” Gaber added.
Such a small roster has meant a lot of playing time for the entire Cougar team.
“We’re playing a ton of innings because there’s no one else to fill,” Gaber said. “It definitely is weird with one person on the bench because the rest are on the field.”
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