COLORADO SPRINGS - The growth of The Classical Academy softball program cannot be measured in wins and losses. Or even the scores of its games.
The true mark of the team’s rise from the ashes is reflected in the attitude of the players.
“We’re focused and we have a will to win,” said TCA senior third baseman Taylor Phelps, who has a team-leading three doubles and five RBIs. “We’re confident we can get outs. We’re confident we can get better. We’re confident we can play with anybody.”
Phelps is among a small handful of key returning players on the team. Others include senior pitcher/second baseman Brianna Martinez and junior pitcher/shortstop Skyeler Sheveland. They are all three-year starters.
“We’re competitive now,” Martinez said. “Instead of it being all on the pitcher, it’s the whole team that contributes.”
The change in attitude is a direct result of first-year head coach Scott DuFaud. The fiery middle school teacher spent the off season encouraging girls to try out for the team. He spoke to the returning players about making softball more of a commitment.
“We went from barely being able to field a team last year to having more than 20 players in our program this year,” DuFaud said. “I’m very happy with the progress. And we have a pretty strong junior high program with two teams.”
Dufaud and his players know it will take time to build a winning program. But that doesn’t seem to detour anybody from the task at hand.
“I wish I could play another year,” said Martinez, whose .571 batting average leads the team in that department. “This is most fun I’ve ever had playing softball.”
Sheveland is encouraged by the patience and willingness DeFaud and his staff have shown in working with the girls.
“They’re teaching us good technique,” said Sheveland, who is batting .355. “They’re teaching us how to be better pitchers.
“Winning league is always a goal, but this year just getting the basics down and making routine plays is important.”
The Titans are 3-9 overall, 0-3 in the Class 3A Tri-Peaks League. Their record probably won’t intimidate many opponents. But coming from where they were in recent years to where they are today is like night and day. TCA was a combined 2-29 in 2010 and 2011, with their only victories coming against Wasson. Last year, TCA scored one or no runs 13 times.
This season, TCA has victories over Mitchell (19-9), Wasson (32-1) and Mitchell (9-5). The Titans more than held their own during a 4-1 loss to 5A Doherty, and a 14-8 loss to 5A Pine Creek. Dolores Huerta Prep defeated TCA 7-6.
“If you think about where we’re coming from, things are looking pretty good,” said junior second baseman Annie Schoephoerster, who is batting .261 “The future looks great.”
Several underclassmen are playing key roles. They include: freshman catcher Madison Cooper (.300) and sophomore outfielder Melissa Doole (.333).
Most top-notch programs are made up numerous club players. Even mid-level programs typically have a few club players. Dufaud is working with an entire team of girls who have, at the most, played some parks and rec.
“The awareness for the girls is not there yet,” said DuFaud, speaking of the club appeal. “But despite all that their achievements have been very impressive.”
The Titans are also without an on-campus field or decent practice facility. They play their home games at El Pomar Sports Complex - about a 30 minute drive south of the school - and practice on an acre of dirt just north of the school’s on-campus football stadium.