When Drew Castillow took over as Trinity’s new softball coach, the first thing he wanted to implement were ideas to build the numbers in a softball program that has struggled for depth the last three years.
“The goal was to make the girls enjoy the game as much as possible,” he said. “What could we do from a coaching standpoint that brings the most fun to the game for the girls. So we let them listen to music at practice now because they enjoy that. We end practice playing team-building games. We’ve done community outreach in the city. Anything that would make the game fun for the girls, that would build excitement in the program, to get more girls to want to play.”
In the short term, he would like to have enough girls to simply field a softball team. The Wildcats had a 10-player roster, but lost one player in the preseason to injury, added two players, then lost another during the season opener with Brew Tech. Now two more are battling illness, forcing the eight remaining players to cancel four games last week and putting this week’s game with St. James on Wednesday in jeopardy.
Castillow was a first-year assistant last year and was elevated to head coach after the school decided not to renew the contract of veteran coach Gennie Honel. He would like to have a more aggressive squad but, like Honel, his numbers don’t permit it.
“I know Gennie did a great job building the program and did a great job leading countless numbers of girls to be better people,” Castillow said. “She just loved on those girls wholeheartedly and it made them better girls and better people in general. But I think with any new staff, we are going to do things differently. We have to do some things differently just because we have such low numbers, so it’s not a completely different rebranding of Trinity softball, there are just little nuances we do differently just to put us in a position I’m more comfortable with.”
But 2019 started off on the wrong note when veteran Mackenzie Avant, one of two returning seniors on the team, was forced to give up the sport and have corrective surgery on her legs. Avant was considered the Wildcats’ top player, a pitcher who could catch and play other positions as well.
“That’s a big loss,” Castillow said. “She’s a great athlete (who can play) just about anywhere you need her.”
On a better note, the Algebra II teacher was able to add a pair of first-year players to the roster. Annabelle Brown has alternated between second base and the outfield this year. Eighth grader Ta’Kara Mitchell, however, was lost for the season when she suffered a season-ending knee injury rounding the bases in the season opener with Brew Tech.
The Wildcats won two of its five games in Brew Tech’s Big Horn Classic a few days later, including a walkoff win over Greenville that gave his squad a much-needed boost. After canceling games with Brew Tech and Reeltown and a doubleheader with Charles Henderson last week, Castillow hopes his team can find enough players to compete in Wednesday’s game with St. James at Auburn University’s Jane Moore Field.
“We’re not going to be in a position to compete for the state championship this year,” Castillow observed. “And you just have to be a little realistic on that. But that doesn’t mean there’s not other things we can’t do around the city.
“We’ve got an information session with the university, we’ve got a tour scheduled, then we’ll go to the softball field and they’ll get to play on a top 25 softball team’s college field. So, regardless of how that game turns out, that’s just an excitement building part of the program.”
For Castillow, building excitement is his best hope for recruiting more players on a team desperately in need of depth
“I think one of the things we try to do is compete better in every game,” he said. “So we’re seeing improvement from last year to this year and improvement from one game to the next. Are we getting beat 15-0 in three (innings) or are we playing seven innings? Even small victories like that, for a team that has struggled in the past, makes the game more fun.”