Clear skies, open field

Coyotes enjoying head start on outdoor practice time

REED CITY — Reed City’s Roger Steig was like any other high school softball coach who was taking advantage of summer-like weather in mid-March with one special venue: outdoor practices.

The first week of official practices, starting on March 12, normally conducted inside because of the weather, were instead conducted at the high school softball ball diamond.

“It is rare,” Steig said of being outdoors this early. “It’s fortunate for us.”

Steig anticipates keeping 12 players on the varsity and 12 on the JVs. He led a busy summer and offseason program in which players worked out diligently for the 2012 season.

“The girls did a lot of work in the offseason so it looks pretty good,” Steig said. “Being able to play outside is a whole different thing. The field’s in good shape. It’s different playing outside. You get the real feel of things. It’s never the same by working inside so it’s fortunate we can be outside.”

Seven starters are back from last year. Weather-permitting, action starts March 27 in a home game with Evart.

Courtney Morgan and Sam McDonald are back as starting pitchers. Steig’s two daughters, Taylor and Amanda also return, along with Sydni Arnold, Emma Lockhart and Ally Stieg.

McDonald is a senior this spring and is in her third varsity season.

“We played together as a team,” she said. “We won quite a few games so that was good. We played in Mount Pleasant (during the summer) and in the fall in Grand Rapids.”

McDonald will pitch for the Coyotes and also anticipates playing third base and shortstop. She hasn’t pitched since summer ball. She’s hoping speed and consistency will be a strength as a pitcher. McDonald also expects the Coyotes to be solid defensively.

McDonald batted a whopping .511 last season. “I’m hoping to match it, if not beat it, but it will be tough,” she said.

The Coyotes hope to be a factor in the Central State Activities Association race.

“We played together and we bond together,” McDonald said. “We should be good.”

Arnold is also in her third varsity season. She’s slated for center field duty but might do some catching.

“Last year was good but I feel it could be better,” she said.

Arnold batted .400 last season. “It’s not bad but I want better,” she said. “It’s keeping my eyes on the ball. I think we’ll be pretty solid.”

Arnold also expects the Coyotes to be strong defensively. She’s confident her arm and fielding will be solid as a center fielder. She caught a few years ago prior to playing center field.

“We’ll be a lot better than we’ve been,” Arnold said. “We have a lot of players back. We’ve all been playing together for a long time.”

It was a busy offseason for Arnold and her teammates.

“I’ve been catching for the pitchers,” she said. “I’ve been batting once or twice a week. We went to a Ferris (indoor) camp a month ago.