By RUSSELL JONES
For the first time in over three decades, Otter Valley has a new coach heading up their softball program, actually they’ll have two. Legendary OV softball coach Pattie Candon retired last season after 33 years, racking up 347 wins and four state championships. Two coaches were brought in to replace the hall-of-famer and this year, a new era of Otter softball begins under the guidance of Kelly Trayah and Toni Poalino.
The coaches have a wealth of experience to draw from having both played the game — Poalino for 30 years — and both have coached at various levels for years. They are off to a good start as they had a large pool of players; 30 girls tried out.
“The numbers were really encouraging,” Poalino said. “We’ll have 12 on varsity and 17 on JV, but 2 of those are injured and when they come back we don’t know where they’ll end up.”
The foundation that they will look to build upon is largely about getting the basics mastered.
“Patti was big on fundamentals, that was her thing,” Trayah said. “We’re going to take that base and expand, while giving it our own twist.”
Candon still stops by and helps the young girls out, according to the two coaches, and they plan on utilizing any help she wants to give.
“We’re going to have a small ball approach,” Trayah said. “We will be really aggressive on the bases.”
“Every girl is going to be able to lay down a bunt,” Poalino added. “It’s an important tool that we plan on using to our advantage. It helps to keep the opposing pitcher flustered.”
Trayah said that the bunt is an easy way to advance the runners, move the defense in, and get runners in scoring position before bringing them around and something they plan on doing a lot of.
On the pitching side, the coaches say they will focus on accuracy and consistency although they may not have speed. The starter will be Morgan LaPorte, a junior who has increased her velocity in the offseason but is also throwing more strikes this season.
“With being more accurate and hitting the strike zone with more regularity, she’s built a lot of confidence,” Trayah said.
Freshman Riley Keith will do some of the heavy lifting on the mound as well.
“She’s very promising, she still has some maturing to do, but she’s a freshmen,” Poalino said. “But she’s got great velocity, she’s the fastest on the team, and she’s working on her accuracy.”
During preseason the team was still practicing in the gym, but the coaches say, “so far, so good.”
“It’s hard to judge indoors, but I’ve been pretty impressed by what I’ve seen so far,” she said. “It’s a really young team, we don’t have any seniors.” “The team has great energy and they’re building great camaraderie,” Trayah said. “We’re excited about the season and we’ll continue to grow as the season goes on.”