WOODSIDE — Jenn Bradshaw says there’s a lot to like about her team’s attitude right now.
A month into the season, Polytech High’s players are still excited about playing softball and working to get better.
“They’re playing with a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm,” said Bradshaw, the Panthers’ coach. “The girls really just seem to be enjoying being out here. It’s refreshing.”
But Polytech’s players also know they’re going to need all the enthusiasm and energy they have to face a formidable final stretch of the regular season.
Starting with today’s 4:15 p.m. home showdown with Delmar (8-0 Henlopen Conference, 10-2 overall), the Panthers (8-0 in conference, 8-0 overall) play 10 games in the next 19 days.
Several of those games were rescheduled after being rained out earlier in the season.
Nine of the Panthers’ 10 remaining opponents currently have winning records while the other, Cape Henlopen, is 5-5. Besides Henlopen Southern Division-leader Delmar, Polytech still has to face teams like Caravel, Sussex Tech and two-time defending state champion Laurel.
The Panthers say they’re looking forward to the challenge.
“I think it keeps us motivated at practice,” said senior pitcher Shaina Reed. “I think we’re really excited, especially to play Delmar. I think it’ll really challenge us. It will show us what we’re really made of and what we need to work on.”
“I love a challenge, I can’t wait to play all the good teams,” said junior catcher Whitney DeMora. “I just like the intensity. We’re so excited to play good teams. I feel like we do better.”
“I really think they are looking forward to the challenge and showing what they’re made of in the next couple weeks,” said Bradshaw. “This is why we play the game, to face these challenges and to go up against the best. It’s only going to make you better. It’s only going to prepare you for the state tournament at the end of the year.”
Polytech has played just one close game so far. The Panthers had to rally for two runs in the top of the seventh inning to edge Lake Forest, 6-5, on April 15.
Polytech won its other seven games by a commanding total of 88-1. Of course, only two of those first eight opponents have a winning record.
Reed has already thrown six shutouts this season, including three in a row. Her ERA is only 0.50.
While Reed has been a starter since her freshman season, Bradshaw has seen her grow into the veteran pitcher she is now.
“She’s definitely matured,” said Bradshaw. “And you can see that confidence in the way she carries herself and the way she supports her teammates and the way they support her, in turn. There’s a mutual respect there.”
“I think my freshman and sophomore years I was looking more toward Alex (Mycek), my catcher, and Tori (Reed) and all the seniors then,” said Reed. “But now I guess I’m the one that people are looking at. I think all the seniors are taking responsibility and I think we’re doing a good job showing everybody what to do.”
Reed is also the Panthers’ leading hitter with a .625 batting average. Senior Brandi Dalious (.531), junior Morgan Dodge, (.483) and DeMora (.467) are also hitting over. 400.
Polytech’s current senior class, which also includes outfielder Kailey Perry, has put together an impressive record of 59-11 in their careers. That includes a trip to the DIAA state finals two years ago.
Reed said the seniors know this is their last chance to make a run at the program’s first state championship.
“I think we all want everything,” said Reed. “We’ve been working for it for a really long time. It needs to be this year. ... It is now or never.”
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