JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF
BURNET — When the high school softball season opened Jan. 17, the Burnet Lady Dawgs participated in a practice, just like most teams across the state. The music was blaring, and stadium lights were lit.
But not every squad ran out of their dugouts at midnight with the temperature at 34 degrees for a two-hour workout.
The Lady Dawgs did.
New head coach Corey Bledsoe, who guided Bangs to a 42-15 record in two seasons, grinned as he recalled the enthusiasm his 28 players had when he shared what time he wanted to have the workout. Once basketball season ends, he believes he’ll have a total of 38 players divided into a varsity and two junior varsity squads.
“I’ve always wanted to do it,” he said about starting the season with a midnight practice. “I thought it would be a lot of fun. We got to do it.”
But don’t think the Lady Dawgs didn’t work, he said. In fact, he loved their enthusiasm and the way they attacked every part of the practice, even the defensive drills that aren’t considered the most fun parts of practice.
“They had a lot of energy,” he said. “You always want to start on the first day, just to have energy and excitement and something new.”
The very early morning practice also served another purpose, the coach said. It helped with team bonding because all the players went through the same obstacles together.
“I think that’s a lot of it,” he said. “You have to have team chemistry … to play together and buy in. It was an opportunity to be out there and to get to know each other.”
The Lady Dawgs have four pitchers vying for starter. They are junior Drew Salinas, sophomore Jill Rosow and seniors Landree Thompson and Katie Kirkland.
Bledsoe said he is looking for some specific traits from his starting pitcher.
“Somebody who is willing to compete and throw strikes and not be intimidated,” he said. “You’re going to make them hit you. We’re going to be on offense when we’re playing defense. It takes a lot of physical work and preparation. You’re never going to get people out unless you have confidence.”
While some believe pitchers can win games by themselves, Bledsoe said he wants his pitching staff to understand they’re not alone.
“There are eight other girls behind you and five others in the dugout,” he said. “They’re going to have confidence in throwing strikes. We’re not going to beat ourselves.”
He had the same philosophy at Bangs. In his first year, the Lady Dragons had a 22-7 record and reached the Class 3A regional quarterfinals. Before the 2012 season, Bangs had never advanced to the playoffs, Bledsoe said.
Last year, the Lady Dragons were 20-6 and lost in the bi-district playoffs.
Bangs faced Burnet last season, so Bledsoe had an idea of what the Lady Dawgs were about before he applied for the job, he said.
“I knew there was talent there,” he said. “We have a great group of seniors and a lot of talent. The junior varsity was really good. This was a better opportunity, a Class 3A school close to Austin. I fell in love with it.”
The Lady Dawgs welcome Hutto on Jan. 31. The junior varsity white will be on the old Lady Dawgs field, while junior varsity green will play at Bulldog Diamonds. First pitch is at 5 p.m. with the varsity following at 6:30 p.m. at Bulldog Diamonds. All fields are located at Burnet High School, 1000 The Green Mile.