Softball's certainly a skill sport, but Tates Creek has learned it's so much more than that.
"The mental part was the biggest hurdle for us," Tates Creek Coach Nick Sutherland explained.
But the Commodores' first-year coach didn't bring in a sports-psychology guru to help the team start its turnaround this season.
He brought in more fun.
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"We've had this team all along," Sutherland said. "But we had to get their heads right, get them to enjoy the game and have fun."
It has shown on and off the field for Tates Creek, which won its first-round 43rd District game over Lexington Christian 15-0 in three innings Tuesday night.
Creek put up nine runs in the first inning and never looked back in the rout, which sets up a rematch with city power Lafayette on Wednesday at Lexington Catholic.
Tuesday's win was the Commodores' 12th of the season, the program's most victories since the 2005 season.
The players and coach credit their quest for fun.
Some of that fun has included regular meals out with the team, an overnight lock-in at the field house to start the season as a part of their Big Maroon Madness celebration.
"We like each other and have a great attitude this year," said sophomore Finley Yuttayong, who had a double and a triple in the win. "We all think way more positively about everything."
Kenzi Groft, a freshman who pitched three innings without giving up a hit, said the bonding off the field has been good for the team on the field, too.
"We get along better," she said. "We have better communication on the field. We're closer knit."
Creek has a tall task in its semifinal game on Wednesday against the No. 12 Generals, who haven't given up a run to a city team all season.
But Sutherland said that as long as his team sticks with the fundamentals and has fun, it will be successful.
"It starts with defense," he said. "Lafayette gets out on teams quick, and our best chance at them is to try to keep them contained. Hopefully, we can do that and keep the score close."
In a few years, he said, he hopes the Commodores will be the team to beat.
"We're competitive again," Sutherland said. "We're really turning the corner; we've got a team of the future."
LCA's rebuilding season came to an end in three innings, but the Eagles (1-21), who pitched a seventh-grader and a freshman, return all but one player next year.
Lexington Christian 000— 0 0 2
Tates Creek 951—15 9 0
Jordan Woeste, Brianna Shell (1), Woeste (3) and Brooklyn Brinegar. Kenzi Groft and Mary Downing. W—Groft. L—Woeste. 2B—Cressa Fryrear, Finley Yuttayong; 3B—Yuttayong.
Records—Lex. Christian 1-21, Tates Creek 12-22.
42nd District changes
The venue, the order of teams playing and the dates were all altered in the 42nd District softball tournament, which will start Wednesday.
The tournament was moved to Bryan Station after field-drainage problems at Henry Clay. The Devils' game with the Defenders was moved into the 6 p.m. slot, followed by Sayre's game against Scott County.