PORTAGE | Kaitlin Doud is bringing a new energy to the Portage softball field this season.
For one, the junior shortstop is now an upperclassman and a captain on a team that features just one senior and eight other juniors. Secondly, Doud is a defending state champion who has designs on adding some more hardware to the Portage trophy case this season.
“There’s definitely some pressure that comes with this season,” Doud said. “We’re the main focus now. We’re the state champions, and we know that everyone is looking at us. We need to embrace that by putting forth a lot of effort when we go to practice, get in the weight room and get to the games.”
Doud led the Indians last year in batting average (.437), runs scored (37), hits (45) and doubles (12), but that doesn’t mean the junior is content. Not by a long shot. Not after winning a state championship.
“There’s always room to improve,” she said. “It’s a new season. It was great what we did last year, but that was last season. We can improve our speed, our strength, every aspect of our game.”
Portage coach Lisa Hayes echoed the thoughts of one of her three captains, choosing to focus on the present rather than the past. The Indians lost several key players from last season’s team, including Mental Attitude Award winner Haley Hodges and Heather Zengler. Hayes believes the youthful Indians have the talent, and the mindset, to get back to the state tournament, but that isn’t what Hayes is focusing on as Mother Nature is continuing to play havoc with the schedule.
“These players aren’t satisfied, and they want to win another one,” Hayes said. “The goal for us is to be the best we can be at the right time. That doesn’t necessarily mean our first game; I hope it’s not our first game. We’re not just focusing on one game at the end of the year; we’re focusing on improving through every game.”
While Doud is eager to begin her junior season, she is now starting to think about the future. She spent the winter playing basketball and has already drawn some small-college interest for her play on the hardwood. Doud was appreciative of the attention, but playing softball at the next level is her goal. It’s part of what drives her when she walks into practice every day.
“I’ve worked on my fielding a lot,” she said. “My goal is not to have any errors this season. I know you’re going to have one every now and then, everyone does, but my goal is to stay mentally tough. The ultimate goal is to play at the next level. It’s something that’s important to me.”