Special to the Tribune
The Golden Eagle Regional Park is nestled between two hills where some patches of snow elude the sun’s rays and a chilly breeze flows through the complex. The Reed High School softball team used the softball field there Thursday for one of many practices during a season where great things are expected.
First-year head coach Jon Wunder essentially switched places with Reed baseball head coach Ray Charles. Wunder was an assistant coach last year under Charles, who coached Reed softball for the last 12 years, and he now has a shot at leading his own team. The larger role Wunder has inherited has also come with the pressure to win.
“Reed has a winning tradition," he said. “It’s the winningest softball team in the state over the last 25-30 years so there are some big shoes to fill. My main goal is to continue the winning tradition and give the girls a positive experience.”
Pitcher Destinee Levesque and outfielder Kyndal Comphel are returning seniors from last year’s team. There is also one other senior, Ellie Sullivan, who transferred from last year’s state champion Spanish Springs. These seniors will be given the next couple of weeks to prove that they can be the captains of this team.
“They’ve been told that they’re not automatically captains," said Wunder. “They get what they earn, everything, from playing time to the ability to be captain.”
Wunder will make his decision after the team’s first tournament next weekend. He wants to see who steps up and is a leader. It could be anybody on the team whether it’s a senior, junior, sophomore, or freshman.
With 10 returning players, Wunder expects his team to compete every time they step on the field, if not win each game.
“We expect to win regionals, get into the playoffs, and there can only be one state champion and we sure hope that will be us," Wunder said. “But it will be exciting because I think there’s a lot of parity in the league this year.”
In order to become state champion, Reed will have to go through cross-town rival Spanish Springs. Damonte Ranch, the state runner-up from last year could be a challenge as well. Wunder also sees Bishop Manogue as a tough potential out because of its pitching. But he knows that some teams have improved while others have regressed and that doesn’t mean his team will have a free shot at the state title.
“It’s probably the most even it has been the last couple of years," he said. “We’re expecting a dogfight.”
One of the players the team will lean on is Levesque. Her strong pitching one of the team’s strengths, according to Wunder. The team will also focus on defense, which hurt the team last year. Wunder said the team will have the mindset of “defense wins championships."
Levesque, who has committed to Fresno State University, has high expectations for not only her performance but for her team as well.
“I really hope to take my team far," she said. “Our chemistry seems to be good this year. I hope it can all come together and that my pitching stays good and progresses like it has for the past couple years.”
Her only major goal is a team accomplishment — to win the state title.
As for the veteran outfielder Comphel, she has somewhat simpler goals.
“I just want us to get along with each other and play well as a team," she said. “I don’t want drama.”
Comphel worked on her hitting over the offseason because the team “can’t get anywhere without hitting.” She also wants to get to state and win it all.
Reed has plenty of reasons to feel optimistic for the fast-approaching season. Whether or not the girls win the state championship remains to be seen.