Softball Associate Head Coach Lisa Navas Recaps Fall And Defense
All right, we’re here with South Carolina softball associate head coach, Lisa Navas. We’re going to talk a little bit about the fall here today. But first I just want to talk about after the season, and the spring was canceled early, long wait between softball. Just how good was it to get back out here with practices, and game like situations with these scrimmages?
It was so exciting. It was so difficult to sit and do nothing for the first time in 28 years from March on. But so excited to be out here and to get back to our little bit of normalcy, and get playing and being with my family.
So big freshman class this year with 10 people, a lot of newcomers, a lot of new faces out there. For you, how exciting was it to get to see these freshmen for the first time after we’ve been waiting a while to see them at South Carolina?
Yeah, it was really exciting. They’re a very talented group. And just to get to know their personalities, which is an ongoing process, but it’s a lot of fun with this crew.
And overall as a crew, who stuck out to you, newcomers, returners? Got a lot of different people out there. Who are some people that defensively really stuck out to you?
Really just overwhelmed with the in general class that they were more talented, athleticism, everything. And just a lot of fun to be around. There was no one that was behind, everybody was right there with us. And they’re a lot of fun.
A group I really like to watch is the catchers. One, because they’re all competing. But two, you can see they’re really genuinely cheering each other on, and trying to get each other better. There’s no animosity toward this person’s competing for my job. They’re generally working together, and wanting each other get better. How rewarding is it to see a group like that with so much competition to still act like teammates?
Yeah, I mean, we have a newcomer, Leslie Carroll, and she has fit in very well with Anna Vest and Jordan Fabian. But I’ve really enjoyed the process of Anna and Jordan from last year to this year. Really getting better, and really being there, all of them are there for each other. They are a little goofy. But it’s, we’ve done little things and they have gotten so much better. Their arms are much stronger. They’re just ready to go for these season.
And staying in the infield for what seems like the 10th straight year. You’ve got Mackenzie Boesel and Kenzi Maguire up the middle. How much easier does that make it for you as a coach to know up the middle, you’ve got two people with the type of experience that they have?
Well the biggest thing is that my jokes aren’t funny to them anymore after being here five, six years. They provide an extra coach out there. And they’ve been able to help the person next to them and explain things, or I should say translate what I say to what they need to be doing. It’s a blessing when we’re doing ground balls, and you have an example right in front of you of what we’re trying to get to, as opposed to what the freshmen may be doing at this point. So they really, it’s been a blast to have them, and they’ve saved me a few gray hairs.
I think we have options at basically every position this year. But especially the outfield, you got a lot of different options out there. What have you seen out of that position group this year?
– We’ve added a lot of speed with Aaliyah White and Carlie Henderson. And they just have really made a big difference in terms of going after balls, competing in positions to add to a Lauren Stewart, and to Katie Prebble.
And we talked about experience at the middle with Kenzi and McKenzie. But you got experience up the middle again with Lauren in center field. How big is that to know that center field when a ball is hit out there, it’s going to get caught?
– Oh, it’s been, you know, it’s go catch when the balls hit there, it’s a blessing for the pitchers. They feel so much better knowing that. But there’s just been so much competition overall. We may be adjusting some people, and I’m putting them in some different positions just because we have such depth.
And speaking of trying people at different positions. We’ve had a few players over the years here that they play different positions. We’ve seen now going back to Krystan White she played basically every position. We’ve seen Madison Owens on the current team switching around during the fall scrimmages. We saw Madison Gallagher and Riley Blampied, and Carly Robbins kind of switching around. What does it say about this team that they have so much versatility to that? Maybe if second base, if that’s filled, you can go put them over at third, and they’re playing just as well.
They are and it’s at ease for a coach, because you don’t really have any big holes. It does take a lot of time to really master that skill at that position ’cause there’s some little things you have to adjust to. But we have been able to move people around. Madison Owens again, is still, now she’s looking at third base, shortstop, outfield. And we’ve just enjoyed being able to whoever’s hitting, as we always say, is going to play in a defensive position. So we want them to be the best possible defender they can in every spot.
And we talked about newcomers in the field. We’ve also had newcomers in the circle. What have you thought about the pitching group this year? ‘Cause I’m not always sure that people realize the teamwork that goes on with pitching and defense. It’s not just pitchers throwing pitches and defense playing defense, there’s teamwork there. What have you thought of some of the new pitchers? And obviously we return people like Cayla Drotar and Kelsey Oh.
We’ve had a little bit more time to work with the pitchers this year defensively. As I’ve said to every single day is when they are better as a defender, we are better as a defense in general. So they feel confident in terms of putting a drop ball there to get a ground ball out, trusting their defense. But they know if they do their fundamentals and everything in their area, we’re going to be so much better. It’s been a fun group. Actually, Skylar Trahan has been able to play outfield, besides an extra lefty pitcher. And Leah Powell she fields her position, so she does a good job.
And offensively in these seven scrimmages what do you see out of the group as a whole? A lot of power, a lot of speed, a lot of lefty options here. What do you like about this offense?
A lot of lefty options. Something we haven’t had in the past, but they just really do a good job. And they’ve been, you know, Coach Kaela Jackson’s done a great job with them in terms of hitting the ball hard, really understanding what their swing is. And more tools in their toolbox of what to use in certain situations and stuff. That’s made a big difference for us.
Talking about speed, and lefty options that we have. I feel like that also makes the defense better ’cause every day you’re getting to go up against that type of speed and lefties that we’re going to see when we get into SEC play. How big is that to have that type of speed at the plate, and lefty options from a defensive standpoint?
Well, it makes practice a little bit easier when you’re doing slap defense instead of me running in circles, or trying to hit from the right side. They really, you know… Aaliyah’s so quick, Carlie Henderson, they just, they make some things happen. Kylee Gleason they’re just making things happen, and pushing our defense. Being able to really read the ball off the bat at that angle to understand where they need to be defensively makes a big difference for us.
And I want to switch to kind of bigger picture. For first-year players, what is that big jump, the biggest jump that they have to make from high school to college when they’re going out there and they’re playing defense? In your experience, what’s the biggest jump that they have to make that maybe first comers they don’t always get?
The speed of the game. At our level is everything’s a little bit quicker. The game doesn’t change your fundamentals. So they have to be efficient in their movements. They can’t take an extra step to go get a ball that they may be able to in high school, to now it’s, one wrong little movement, and that ball’s by them. So we use a stopwatch with our runners and everything. But the speed and the attention to detail in everything that they do is tough for them, because they’ve always just done it. And I’ve been good at what I do instead of understanding why I’m doing this, why my foot needs to move this way. And not over coaching, but just an overall understanding of where they need to be, so that they’re more efficient in what they’re doing.
And something that we pride ourselves on as a defense is our ability to turn double plays. It’s something we’ve been very good at since you’ve been here. What goes into being good at turning double plays, as far as, what are you working on in practice? What does that look like to be a team that’s good at turning double plays?
Well, I think that we set ourselves up to turn double plays in every ball that’s hit, as opposed to some people go get the ball then look to second, then throw it there. So our footwork is we’re open to go to second each time. They work on the efficiency of their transfer glove in hand. So we do that quite a bit just to understand there. And then understanding the speed of the hit. If it’s a bunt I have to go get how long did it take me to go get it? And then that means I’m going to first base. But I also know how fast a runner is, and it only took me two steps, I got it, I’m going to second. Without relying on somebody yelling to, or yelling, or anything to make me turn a double play. So it has to be first nature is double play. Second nature is go to first.
And something that we’ve been over the years here is we have been at good defense. So for you, what is the difference in an okay defense and a good defense? Like what is that jump that you have to make from being a good defense as a team altogether, to being a good defense?
I don’t know if you watched some scrimmages we were throwing the ball around. But to me it’s take care of the ball. And control what we can control in terms of the ball’s hit to me I can make the play. I control my throw, I control how I field it. I can’t control how fast it gets to me, in terms of what the field is or anything like that. So I control what I can, and take care of it that way, understanding the game. And it’s a constant talk about where should I have gone? Why did you go to first instead of to third on a play? And that constant conversation happens on the field, and so that they understand it. And then they’re like, “Oh yeah, I could have gone to third.” Or we show them video later, and see how much time they had, and they never looked. So difference between good and great is a little bit. And so we just focus on what we can do and just stay in the moment of catching, throwing, fielding. And just we don’t want to upset the pitchers. We want to do all they we can for them. So we just want to work our butts off for it.
Let’s circle back a little bit to the fall again. On the base pass I see a lot of aggression out there. What kind of pressure can speed put on the opponents when you’re on the bases? ‘Cause I see it’s taken a lot of bases, a lot of extra bases, stealing bases, bunting, looking to be aggressive. What kind of pressure does that put on an opponent?
Well, it puts a lot of pressure on them. And if they’re more focused on the hard turn around a base, looking that the person’s taking the next base. Maybe they take their eye off the ball for 1/10 of a second. If we’re stealing and it’s a hit and run, shortstop might leave early. So now we got first and second as opposed to getting thrown out at second. So it helps us so much to be aggressive, to have that speed. Like you talked about before was just that natural speed to go from first to third. If we do our job of focus on the ball, and take care of it is no problem. But offensively we want to run, run, run, and make them throw us out, and make them do what they need to. But we’re going to push the envelope.
I’m going to transition into we just had a big day this week with signing day, with five newcomers coming in next year. Can you give us a little bit about what’s expected out of the signing class?
I’m excited, you know, it’s two infielders, and two, or three catchers, so it gives us depth all the way around. And all the catchers can play other positions. So it’s just adds to our depth in general. I don’t think you’re ever going to replace the class that we’re going to lose. They provide some great experience with the two kids from California. Our two kids from Georgia are on one of the top teams out of Georgia. And then our kid from Florida, Jiulia, is she’s just a little goofball. You know, a small kid, you wouldn’t expect much from her, but she can catch like a son of a gun.
And to wrap it up, you kind of talked about this class here that we we’re about to lose with KK, and Kenzi, Mackenzie and Lauren. What has this group as a whole meant to this program?
I’ve been real close with them, of course, ’cause I have the two infielders. This year I’ve taken over a little bit more with the outfield, so getting to know Stew, inside and out on a daily basis. KK is KK, and we’ve all known her since she was in eighth grade, and she’s as funny can be. But it’s just tough when you, every year when you lose a class, because they are a part of you every day for four years or five years. Not seeing them each day makes it just a little bit different. But that’s a part of coaching, and you just kind of move on. But they they’ve done an outstanding job. And just to watch them grow and mature, they’ve just been a lot of fun.
I’m going to ask one more before we get out here. We’re in individual’s right now, and then come Thanksgiving break the team’s going to go home, won’t be back until January. So for you as a coaching staff what are you guys working on from, got along a little break here about two months, or so until the team comes back. So as a coaching staff what are you guys going to be working on?
Well our job never stops, and I don’t think it changes any. We begin our scouting, and that process in terms of knowing what other teams have, and kind of little paperwork that we need to do to get ready for the season. And nothing really changes for us.