Springfield softball coach Brett Sadler knew he had to change the losing mentality in his program, and he told the players he wanted to go through a book to revamp the culture — with homework and group discussions being part of the exercise.
He knew, of course, how that would be received.
“I said, ‘I would never ask you to do something I wouldn’t do as a player myself. I need you to do something, and you’re going to have to trust me on this,’” he said.
“I told them we were going to read a book, and they groaned and moaned. The push-back was unreal. But now, they look forward to it. I ask them what they think, and they say, ‘We love it.’ ”
The book is called, “Finished It: A Team’s Journey to Winning It All,” and it chronicles Alabama’s run to the 2012 NCAA softball title under legendary coach Patrick Murphy.
Sadler heard about the book, which is written by former player Cassie Reilly-Boccia, while attending a coaching conference where Murphy was a speaker. After getting a copy, he knew it was just what his players needed to hear.
“I couldn’t put it down,” Sadler said. “I told the girls, ‘I’m not the biggest fan of reading, but I think I read 80 or 90 pages the first night.”
The Wildcats didn’t need to be convinced their old ways weren’t working. They went 4-21 in Sadler’s first season last year after going 1-26 in 2016.
“We’re changing our mindset right now,” Sadler said. “We’re going from saying, ‘I HAVE to do something,’ to ‘I GET to do something.’ And the final stage is ‘I WANT to do something.’ Instead of thinking, ‘I have to hit another bucket of balls,’ we’d like them to get to the point where they say, ‘I want to.’
“They’re excited and buying in, and I see the growth.”
The Wildcats, who started the season Monday with an 11-0 win over Urbana, have just 14 players, one more than last season. But they have a strong group of seniors to provide leadership.
Third-baseman Kayleigh Haddix, who batted .361 last season and was a second-team All-GWOC pick, is nicknamed “Mom” because of how she looks out for her teammates.
Madison Alexander played second base last season but will move to shortstop. And Sadler said: “She’s the player every coach loves to have. When we say runs some laps, she just gets going.”
Senior right-fielder Makenzie Bowen batted .351 in part-time duty last season. Junior catcher Kirsten McCleary hit .302.
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Taryn Freer was the primary pitcher as a freshman last season, finishing 3-12 with 49 strikeouts in 79 innings and a 6.65 ERA. Sophomore Kenna Burkhardt and Haddix were Freer’s back-ups.
The Wildcats were 17th out of 20 teams in the conference in ERA at 7.50. Apart from the renewed commitment from the players, the key to better results for the Wildcats is improved pitching.
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“We honestly feel in the GWOC National East, we can compete with all the teams there,” Sadler said, referring to Beavercreek, Centerville, Fairmont and Wayne.
“We got some respect last year, but now it’s time to win.”
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