Softball tryouts were about to begin, and Skylar Jones was making last-minute preparations.
Emblazoned on her T-shirt was “Wild and Free,” a message Jones interprets as “be yourself,” she said.
The Springtown junior is student manager for the Lady Porcupines, and her responsibilities include helping head coach Scott Mann record statistics, videotaping practices, fetching softballs, and whatever else is needed.
Jones began managing the softball team as an uncertain sophomore but has blossomed into a self-assured junior.
“Now, it’s much easier,” she said. “I didn't get it at first, but now I get it.”
Keeping statistics is one of the most difficult parts of her job. Jones records pitches, hits, outs, and so on.
“She has done a really good job for us,” Mann said. “She is a really good manager.”
On Jan. 13, Mann and his manager tracked the progress of 20 girls who attended tryouts at the Pojo softball field. About a half-dozen other girls were out of town playing basketball but would try out the following day.
January tryouts are a tradition. The event is held in freezing weather sometimes, but on Jan. 13, the afternoon was sunny and mild. The girls chatted excitedly and laughed while tossing balls back and forth.
“We lost a couple of players last year, but it's a good group here,” the coach said. “They have been working hard in the offseason and have gotten stronger, and we've gotten a little bit faster.”
Last year’s team was young with just two seniors, Summer Conway and Promise Crews. That team won 19 games and went three rounds deep into the playoffs.
This season’s roster includes seasoned veterans such as pitcher Noelle Fernandez, a senior. During tryouts, Fernandez stood on the sidelines watching. An elbow injury required rehabilitation, and she wouldn’t be recovered for another couple of weeks.
“I'm just healing back up, and so I can't throw 100%,” she said.
When Fernandez is full steam, she is golden on the mound. The Lady Porcupines will rely on her elbow to blaze the bean across the plate.
“I'll be healed and ready by our first scrimmage on the 28th, so I'm just waiting it out,” she said.
She liked what she saw at tryouts and harbors high hopes for the season.
“We have a lot of returners, so I'm feeling pretty confident about what we have,” she said. “Then, with the new girls, we can build and establish more of the team we want.”
Her goals for her final year at Springtown High are to graduate and head to college. She has committed to Hawaii Pacific University to play softball on scholarship.
“It’s my dream school,” she said. “It’s really cool.”
First, though, she’ll try to push the Porcupines back to the playoffs.
Tryouts determine who makes varsity and who plays junior varsity. Mann scores the girls as they run, hit, field and throw, and he tests their understanding of the rules.
“Knowledge of the game is a big one,” he said.
Nobody was in danger of being cut. Every girl who tried out will land on varsity or JV.
After warm-ups, the girls circled around Mann to begin the process.
Mann told them what to expect and asked everyone to put their hands together in unison.
A girl hollered out, “Everybody be encouraging!”
Then, the girls clapped their hands and ran onto the field to begin another season of Porcupine softball.
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