By Ted DunnamStaff writer
When assessing her 2019 softball team, Pearland head coach Laneigh Clark can offer the short answer or the long version.
That all depends on whether you want to talk returning starters or promising newcomers.
“We’ve got Alyssa Fort back on the mound, at first base and as a designated hitter,” Clark said, “and we’ve got Maddie Guillen returning, who ended up playing second base last year.
“We’re not sure where in the middle infield she’ll play this season, but that’s our returning starters right there. We’re very inexperienced - the most inexperienced since I’ve been here.”
That’s an eye-opening statement considering Clark enters her 20th year as the Lady Oiler boss.
“I feel like we have some quality players, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do,” Clark said. “I guess the hardest thing about it for us is that there are so many great teams in this area.
“You have to be ready every time you take the field, and you have to be able to step up and get the job done.”
Pearland finished 20-15 last season and lost in bi-district to eventual Class 6A state champion Atascocita. If there was a bright spot in that series, it was that Pearland managed to win game two off the Lady Eagles. Katy was the only other team which managed to defeat Atascocita in the 2018 postseason.
While there are a few letter-winners sprinkled among Pearland’s 18-player roster, none have locked down a spot among the starting nine.
“We’re not playing for championships in January and February,” Clark said. “We have a lot to work on.
“I see a lot of potential there, and a lot of it is just getting to know each other.
“It’s uncomfortable for myself and my coaching staff because we’re used to having people we can rely on that have experience. But it’s also new for us, and it’s fun trying to see who will contribute and who will win their spots.”
Clark can’t get a clear grasp, either, on what type of offensive team she’ll put on the field.
“This won’t be one of our fastest teams because we don’t have as many lefties as in the past,” she said. “I’ll probably have to change my approach and thinking on how we’re doing things on offense.
“One or two runs might be what we score a lot of times. We’ll have to create an offense we’re comfortable with.”
Pearland will participate in the Brenham tournament, host the Hayne Strike Out Cancer tournament and will also compete in the Lone Star Tournament in The Woodlands.
“We’ve got a lot of great competition to try to get better,” Clark said. “Our schedule starts off easy to hard to harder.”
Once District 23-6A play begins, the quality of opponents doesn’t diminish.
“George Ranch, Brazoswood and Dawson are probably all going to be playoff teams,” Clark said. “The Alief school don’t have the opportunities the rest of us do, but they do their best.
“I’d have to pick Dawson to win it. They have one of the best pitchers (Courtney Day) in the Greater Houston area, and she’s their leader offensively and defensively. Brazoswood has great student-athletes and a great coaching staff.
“George Ranch finished fourth last year and went as far as anybody from our district in the playoffs. They’re feisty, they have dedicated coaches and kids, and they find a way to win.”
As far as the Lady Oilers are concerned, Clark knows several players will have to emerge as team leaders and be productive on the field and at the plate.
“It’ll take lots of work, and we’ll have to learn from our mistakes,” she said. “We’ll make changes quickl, and we’ll be uncomfortable at times, but we’ll have to find positives from that.
“I think these girls want to continue the tradition that is strong here. The attitude is pretty good. I don’t see anyone who doesn’t want to do what it takes for us to be successful.”
Pearland opens its season Feb. 12 at Fort Bend Austin.