Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Mustangs in It for the Long Run

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Mustangs in It for the Long Run

Article excerpt

6A STATE SOFTBALL: Team took well-timed breaks to keep fresh during the long season

LAKEWOOD RANCH

Tony Cummins' plan for his first season as the Lakewood Ranch High softball coach was ambitious.

It was not designed for the first five games or first 20 games.

It was intended for the stretch run and the postseason.

"We had built-in breaks all year," Cummins said.

Even if the break came during a time when the Mustangs needed to address a certain area, they stepped away from the practice field and followed the prescribed schedule.

"A wise coach told me, 'Boys have to play well to feel good. Girls have to feel good to play well," Cummins said. "I subscribe to that. I believe that. That has been my approach to this team all year. When they seem down and fatigued and a little out of it, we took a break.

"If you asked the girls if they are still having a good time, I think they would tell you they are. That was the plan from the beginning."

"All of our attitudes are somewhat the same," senior third baseman Dana Hutchins said. "In past years, not everyone was so excited to be out here. They wanted to come out, but they weren't excited.

"Everyone is excited to be here every single day. We don't have any bad attitudes. It's just awesome. We work so well together."

The unity has led to prosperity.

Wednesday, Lakewood Ranch (24-6) will compete in the FHSAA State Final Four in softball for the first time in school history. The District 12 champion will play District 15 runner-up Pembroke Pines Charter (17-4) in a Class 6A state semifinal at 2 p.m. at the National Training Center in Clermont.

A victory will send Lakewood Ranch into the final against the winner of the 7 p.m. game between Niceville (26-2) and Melbourne Eau Gallie (25-2) at 7:05 p.m. Thursday for the state title.

The Mustangs' schedule was made with the same intention.

"Our schedule was as difficult a schedule as we could write," said Cummins, a junior varsity coach for two seasons before replacing Joe Dowling at the outset of this season. "We purposely wrote the hardest schedule we could write, realizing three of our four district games were going to be weak."

Opening with area rivals Braden River and Sarasota, Lakewood Ranch began the season 0-2 with a pair of one-run losses. …

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