Smith-Cotton softball is keeping the faith.
Lady Tigers head coach Josh Dawson, the fourth skipper in as many years, hopes to gain the trust of the team by investing the same faith into the players.
“I work hard for these girls,” Dawson said. “What sets me apart is hopefully I can teach them to compete and never give up. Because that’s not only something you need in athletics, but that’s a life skill.”
Dawson was promoted from an assistant position in May. He previously coached as an assistant at Knob Noster and served as head basketball and baseball coach at Wellsville-Middletown High School in Wellsville, where he earned district and regional coach of the year recognition during his five-year tenure.
In addition to softball responsibilities, Dawson is an assistant for S-C baseball and boys basketball. He said his top priority is turning around a softball program that has averaged five wins per season over the last three years.
“My dedication to them, how I prepare them, and my expectations of them sets me apart. They need somebody that believes in them.
“Trust me, I have my moments. But overall, I believe in them.”
The Lady Tigers (3-6) rebounded from a 13-5 loss to Warrensburg in their home-opening game the very next day. Senior pitcher Karlee Schlup pitched seven innings as senior Taylor Ditzfeld and freshman Hannah Hamsher powered a 7-5 comeback victory with multi-hit performances.
Ditzfeld and Calyssa Plymell — who each homered during a 15-7 victory Thursday at Marshall — and Schlup represent the senior leadership for the Lady Tigers, while freshmen Hamsher, Paris Hammer and Breely Wilson have shown promise in their first varsity campaign.
However promising, the Lady Tigers have also taken their lumps. They finished winless at the Battle Tournament, dropping 10-run results to the hosting Lady Spartans, Mexico and Blue Springs South, the reigning Class 4 State Champions.
Dawson said he hoped the championship demeanor would rub off on the Lady Tigers.
“It’s good for our girls to see, this is what it looks like,” Dawson said. “I can preach what that looks like, but they see it. The way they walk on the field, the way they jog off the field. … That might be the only thing I enjoyed about that tournament.”
Dawson used the phrase “fake it until you make it,” to describe working up to the district championship level. But, between the lines, Dawson wants the Lady Tigers to take advantage of their real opportunities — and give themselves a chance.
“Just put the ball in play,” Dawson said. “Don’t go down looking and put the ball in play.”
Alex Agueros can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @abagueros2.