BELGRADE — Belgrade softball is ready for a fresh start.
“It was a really rough offseason,” head coach Andrea Folkman said. “I feel like what happened affected everybody and the girls, I think everyone was ready to heal and recover from what happened.”
Former head coach Mike Neubauer was not re-hired, which opened up a spot for Folkman, who was the pitching and catching assistant.
“It’s been a learning process, for sure,” she said. “Being the pitching coach for the last couple years has been super useful, so stepping into this role now I feel like I have a good foundation, and I have returning assistant coaches, and that’s been really helpful, too.”
Her players have seemed to enjoy the coaching change, as well.
“I really like how, she’s really inspiring, actually,” senior Haylee Curry said. “She just tries to motivate us to be the best person we can be, because some of us are going to college and I feel like she’s really preparing us for that. … So, it’s really nice to have someone who is there to motivate us every step of the way.”
The preseason wasn’t exactly easy, either. The weather brought heavy snow and rain, resulting in the first few weeks of practice being held in the gym. The team only practiced a handful of times before its first game.
But after all the adversity the Panthers battled, senior Sheridan Smith said it felt good to take the field in the first game together.
“It was nice to get back to the game and get back to the thing we all love, that’s why all of us are here. We all have to do something we care about and having fun, getting to play the game,” she said.
“It was so energizing,” Folkman added. “It was really good to get everybody on the field, so fun to watch them play, fun to watch them be successful. We learned a bunch, and we’re going to keep learning as the season goes on, too.”
There’s certainly a lot of questions surrounding this season. Can Belgrade get its third state title in a row? What does the future look like with the change to Class AA next year? Plenty to think about, but Folkman’s only expectations are for right now.
“We really emphasized character this year — accountability, integrity, passion and coachability — that’s been our values that we have and we expect that from them,” she said.