By Garrett Estrada

Ely Times Staff Writer

Expectations are high for the White Pine High School softball team going into this season. After losing in the state championship game by one run last year, coach Krystal Smith said the amount of returning talent from that squad means this year they will be just as dangerous, if not more so.

“I think that with every year we are a little farther ahead than we were the year before,” Smith said. “With having so many returners, it’s great that the players are continuing to pick up from things that we did last year.”

Smith’s observations look to be more than just the regular coach’s optimism at the start of a new season. In a scrimmage at Boulder City last weekend, the Ladycats showed they have the patience and poise of an experienced team, especially when it came to breaking down the other team’s pitching effort.

“We hit the ball really well,” Smith said. “I’m happy with our ability to see different pitches and make contact with the ball.”

Even still, there has been an entire offseason for rust to gather, and the Ladycats have plenty of room for improvement according to the coach. One such area on the diamond that can take the most time to get back up to speed is the pitching game. While Smith said she expects big things from the arm of Teal Hussey, the team’s overall accuracy from the mound needs work.

“Obviously that’s an area that we need to improve on,” Smith said. “We gave up too many free passes and walks and we just can’t have that happen.”

While the team has yet to play its first real game of the season, the effort of the players and adherence to the little things and fundamentals has Smith calling this year’s squad “ahead of the game from where we were last year.” This weekend will see just how ahead they are as the Ladycats play four games in three days in the River Valley Tournament at Needles High School.

The amount of games isn’t the only challenge. White Pine, a Division III team, will play against Division I teams Legacy, out of Las Vegas, and Pahrump, as well as Division IA team Elko and Barstow out of California.

“We know we are going to be challenged. It is probably the stiffest competition we will face until the divisional rounds of our league at the end of the season,” Smith said.

The goal for the weekend, Smith added, was to take the divisionally mismatched games with a grain of salt and to focus on “learning something from each game.”

The Ladycats first home game of the season will be a double-header against Incline on March 29.