There are superstitions that abound in softball dugouts across the state and are built upon as the years go on.
The evidence of another growing habit at Ryan was in the left hand of junior pitcher Carol Raabe last Friday afternoon. Raabe had a glob of glitter in her right hand, a glob she was ready to properly place over her eye-black, a union of decoration and purpose.
The pregame ritual was started by sophomore outfielder Brooke Ford, Raabe said. The glitter now joins the previous ritual of the entire team placing bows in their hair before the start of a game.
And as the Lady Raiders move up into Class 5A, they will attempt to maintain one of their older traditions. Ryan has made the postseason in each of the last six years, a streak it aims to keep alive in 2013.
“I think we’re talented enough and experienced enough to get in there and compete,” Ryan head coach Aimee Foutch said. “This is a fiery group of girls.”
Ryan started the season against Guyer on Monday night. The game was originally scheduled for tonight but was rescheduled to avoid potential inclement weather.
Last season, El Paso Chapin swept the Lady Raiders in the Class 4A bi-district round.
Ryan carries six seniors on this year’s squad, including first baseman Kayla Cunningham, shortstop Hannah Avrett and catcher Carley Rains.
The last time the Lady Raiders were in Class 5A, they missed the 2006 playoffs by one game. While Ryan will carry a vast amount of experience onto the diamond, it will lack experience in District 5-5A, where its teams are fairly familiar with one another.
“I just feel like being the new team coming up, we’re at a disadvantage in a sense that we don’t know the other teams as well as they know each other,” Foutch said. “I think we just have to be at the top of our game because we have so little knowledge of what it’s like to really get in there and play them.”
The time for district play will come, just not anytime soon. Because of the low number of teams in the district, Ryan will not start 5-5A play until a home matchup against Flower Mound Marcus on March 19, after the school’s spring break vacation.
The lengthy nondistrict schedule gives the Class 5A newcomers some time to adjust to the higher rate of competition.
Foutch said her team’s been focusing on cutting down on errors, hitting and play in the outfield during the off-season.
Keeping the error total low will be a point that’s stressed this season, Foutch said. Last year, the Lady Raiders had games where they were in it, committed an error and were unable to redeem themselves. Foutch said the margin of error will be much smaller in 5A.
One thing that Foutch is not expecting to diminish is the confidence in Raabe, her starting pitcher. Raabe started as a freshman and will continue to be Ryan’s ace this year.
“I think I have a lot more confidence in myself than I did as a freshman,” Raabe said. “It’s just been different learning experiences.”
Along with Raabe and Cunningham and the rest of the squad, Foutch said this team exhibits a sense of calm and preparation prior to games, a trait that will seemingly pay dividends when district play starts. Rains agreed with her head coach.
“This year, we’re more motivated,” Rains said. “We’re more ready to play. You can just see it in our eyes that we are ready to get out there. We’re so excited about it.”
BEN BABY can be reached 940-566-6869. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org .
LADY RAIDERS ROSTER
Head coach: Aimee Foutch
Assistant coaches: Kasie Ostrom, Matt Smith, Abby Arledge