LAUREL -- Forget the perfect storm. Laurel's softball girls are creating a purple storm, already outscoring opponents by 120 runs entering this week.
"We were really disappointed that we lost last season (to COVID-19)," head coach Aleesa Olsen told MTN Sports during a recent practice. "The girls have really high expectations on themselves and I just try to fuel that fire."
"It's been awesome," pitcher/outfielder Ella Crookston said of returning to the diamond. "This is a dream to be out here playing since I didn't get my year last year, and a bunch of other girls didn't get their year."
Though you wouldn't know it by watching, the Locomotives field 14 freshmen and sophomores who opened this season without a single inning of varsity experience. Starting shortstop and leadoff hitter Josie Benson is one of those freshmen.
"It makes me a little nervous, but I'm actually getting better about it," Benson said. "I'm getting more confident, I talk in the field. I'm getting there."
Adding even more intrigue is a roster that includes four sets of sisters and a pair of cousins. That's almost half the team.
"It's funny, they have a sister bond and they hate each other sometimes," Crookston said with a smile. "But then we get on the field and they're best friends."
"It's always sisters," acknowledged infielder Mikayla Moorman. "It's always one sister getting mad at another one. Never a teammate."
"There's quite a few sisters on the team. I'm glad my sister is still in seventh grade," Benson laughed, knowing what's down the road.
Not all the siblings play on Laurel's varsity, but they travel together. Moorman has a younger sis on JV. She says they never really played team ball together growing up because of the age difference. And they don't really trade advice.
"I try but she doesn't take it too well. But I don't take it well when she tries to tell me what to do, either," Moorman confessed.
Despite the lack of warm fuzzies, the Locomotives roll into this week with a spotless 11-0 record.
"I really emphasize base hits, scoring runs, stringing hits together," Olsen said. "We have quite a bit of speed on our team this year so we get a lot of base hits, but we also play a lot of small ball."
Laurel is chasing its second State A softball title -- the first arriving in 2006. Meantime, aside from scoring a column full of wins Olsen also offers another motivational tool. Call it a sweet incentive.
"We do (reward players with) candies for hits," she said. "It keeps them motivated and keeps them wanting to be engaged in the game and get those base hits and score runs."
"Every time you get a hit, you get a Jolly Rancher," Moorman said.
"Oh, she has a huge bag," Crookston said approvingly.
"I've already had to replenish once," Olsen said. "Sam's Club is my best friend."
"I was 3-for-5 at the plate yesterday, so I got three Jolly Ranchers," smiled Benson. "It was pretty good."
Although, Benson said she wouldn't mind raising the stakes to a king size candy bar for home runs. No word on who's paying for cavities, but they're all enjoying the wins.