BY ZACHARY CORMIER
The Lacombe Matrix U16 B softball team came out swinging, pun intended, during the Girls Prairie League Softball opening weekend tournament in Red Deer this past weekend to roll to a 4-1 record through their first five games of the GPLS season.
“The girls are continuing to improve here,” said Matrix Head Coach Derek Rankin of his team’s performance over the course of the weekend.
It wasn’t looking good for the Lacombe girls early on, though, as they fell 12-11 to the Impact during their first game of the season, Friday night.
But the team only got better from there, picking up wins in their next four straight games.
“We played better ball today. We had a rough game Friday night but we played really well today,” Rankin said after a 18-6 win over Stettler on Saturday afternoon.
The team also recorded an 8-0 shutout over the Angels, a 7-2 triumph over the Pistols on Saturday morning and an 11-2 victory over the Red Deer Rage on Sunday night over the course of the weekend’s five game set.
Rankin said one of the major differences between the early wins and the later ones was the group’s ability on the offensive side of the ball.
“We struggled with the bats the first two games today and then came alive here. Our defensive errors are really being cut down on. We only had a couple errors all day, so playing much better ball.”
The Matrix got their bats going early and often during their game against Stettler on Saturday, knocking in 13 runs in the first five innings alone.
They also took advantage of the chances that they were given, as those runs came on just a handful of hits.
With the opening weekend in the rear-view mirror, Rankin said that the team’s focus will be on continuing to improve as the season goes on.
“Bats again. The bats are improving but we’ve still got some room for growth there,” he said when asked what the focus will be as the season goes on.
“If we can get on the bats and start scoring some more runners with the bases loaded, two people on, then I think we can score some earlier runs and put some pressure on them.”
One big strength the Matrix showed during their weekend games was their discipline on the basepaths, racking up the steals early and often.
“We’ve got some speedsters on the bases. We stole a couple of bases and probably scored about three or four runs at home there as well, so we had good jumps at third base as well,” Rankin said.
The Matrix’s efforts over the weekend were enough to land them in second place in the GPLS, just one game back of the Panthers for first place in the eight team division.
And they’ll have a chance to close that small gap early in the season when they visit Unity, Saskatchewan for a tournament next weekend. The Matrix will play the Panthers twice over the course of the five game weekend and will follow up with games against the Cobras, Twin City Angels and the Pistols.