Dunbar softball players open up about fiery coaches
This is the fifth in a series of question-and-answer sessions with Lexington softball players. Paul Laurence Dunbar senior Abby Schweighardt and junior Brooke Hill spoke with the Herald-Leader this week.
Tell me a little bit about yourselves as people. What do you like to do for fun outside of softball?
BH: I like to go hiking and do outdoors stuff.
AS: I do marching band in the fall and then play softball in the spring.
BH: Oh, I played basketball this year too. That’s about it. (laughing)
Abby, what can you take from marching band and apply it to softball?
AS: I used to be kind of quiet, I guess. I was actually a drum major these past two years in band, which means I’m the person that waves my hands around. That leadership, the skills I took from doing that and talking to people and giving directions and everything, that’s helped a lot with softball. It’s easier to talk to people and get them involved.
What instrument did you play?
Was that hard?
AS: It’s okay. I don’t know. It’s not that hard I guess. I’ve been playing since fifth grade, so I’ve gotten used to it.
What’s the hiking scene like in Lexington, Brooke?
BH: I don’t do a lot of local stuff. I like to go out to Utah cause that’s where I’m going to college. The Utah mountains are real pretty.
I guess the Rocky Mountains are a little better than what Lexington has to offer?
BH: Yea (laughing).
Where are you going to college?
BH: I’m going to college at BYU. I will be playing softball there.
How’d that come about?
BH: I went to a camp my freshman year and their coach got interested. We started talking from there. We talked for about a year and then I got offers from another school and he offered and I narrowed it down to those two schools and I ended up at BYU. I’m really excited.
Are you going to play in college, Abby?
AS: I’m going to UK. I’m not gonna play in college. I’m going into pharmacy.
Do you know what you’re going to study Brooke?
BH: I have no idea. Luckily I have another year though.
AS: Right, right. You have time.
Could you walk me through the recruitment process as a softball player? It’s got to be tough to make such a big decision as a freshman or sophomore.
BH: It’s different. It’s interesting because in eighth grade I was starting to go to college camps and stuff and at that time you’re not even a recruitable age yet. Freshman year is when you start getting “recruited” actually. But I think it’s fun. It was definitely stressful but it’s nice now that I’m a junior and I don’t have to worry about college anymore.
You’re a strong hitter. How tough is it to have an occasional bad at-bat?
BH: That’s one of my things – I have to be smarter in the box with just choosing pitches. It’s always frustrating to pop up, especially in critical situations, but I know my team always has my back even when the game doesn’t turn out like we want it to.
Have you always been a pitcher, Abby?
AS: From when they start letting kids pitch. Cause up until a certain age it’s tee ball and then coach pitching. Since I was like 10-ish? Not my whole time but “technically” my whole time, I guess, if you want to call it that.
How tough is it to pick that up after having played for several years in the field?
AS: It was my choice. One of my coaches asked if anybody wanted to do it because, like you said about college, you want to start early, so try to start you from an early age.
BH: We’ve been playing together since then. You were always a pitcher.
AS: Yea! We’ve been on the same team forever. Her mom and my dad, they coached the, like, Rockets or something …
BH: Yea, the Rockets.
AS: … our 8U year. So I’ve known Brooke for a while actually.
What will it be like to see Abby graduate?
BH: It always stinks to see seniors leave because they’re a crucial part of our team. They’ve been starting this whole time. We’ve been playing high school since we were like in sixth grade. She’s a great part of our team and we’ll miss her.
AS: Thank you. Awwww that’s so nice. (They hug.)
Brooke, your mom (Jenny Hill) was the coach at Dunbar previously. Did she want to step away and be more of a fan?
BH: She started doing ESPN work with softball about two years ago and she got into that and it just got kind of hectic. Running me to practice, coaching the high school team and just everything in general. It closed some opportunities with ESPN to always have to be here and she missed a lot of our games, too, so it was kind of hurting us a little bit as well. So she decided it was time for her to step away and just give us a chance to have another coach and learn different things.
I know Coach Lauren Mitchell was an assistant last year. What different things does she bring to the table in the lead role now?
BH: My mom brought some fire but Coach Mitchell’s younger so she’s more relatable sometimes. She just has that fiery attitude to her.
AS: Right, kind of what she said. She’s younger so it’s a different aspect. I mean, her mom’s not old, and I don’t want to say Coach Mitchell’s less experience because she’s not. Coach Mitchell’s been playing her whole life and so has her mom, so they both really have experience in different ways. They both played college. .... Either way they’re both great coaches.
Coach Mitchell is 23. That makes her super relatable, I would think.
BH: She’s always there texting us. Like on prom night she was like, ‘If you need anything, text me’ and all that stuff (laughing).
AS: She gives us college tips and everything. She’s like, ‘For when you go to college, here’s a tip’ and all this stuff.
How do you feel about your season so far and where it can go from here?
BH: I think we’ve done a lot better this season just being consistent with our hitting. I think we do have areas to improve, just like the mental part of our game. Silly mistakes that happen. It’s a part of the game. I think we’ve done pretty well.
AS: Like Brooke said, I think we’re a lot more consistent than we used to be. Really we only have one “new” player, you would say, cause she moved from outside of Chicago, but she’s still been playing so she wasn’t brand new to softball. Other than that it’s pretty much the same girls too. We have a lot of freshman, though, so I guess you could say we’re a young team but we have a good spread.
What’s led to your increased consistency?
BH: My mom was a big hitting person and Coach Mitchell as well. We do a lot of batting practice, especially in the offseason when it’s cold outside and we have to go inside. Just coaches that know the mechanics and us knowing what we’re supposed to do and executing.
AS: Right. Lots of practice. And I also feel like a different range of like … I don’t want to say “types of hitters,” you know, but (facing Brooke) you would be a power hitter. Brooke is a power hitter definitely. But then you have people who slap the ball. You don’t have to hit it hard but you’re a really fast runner. So I think that’s also a really big part.
Week one: Katie Hurley (Bryan Station)
Week three: Taetum Crawford (Henry Clay)
Week four: Maddie Burke and Kodi Forish (Lafayette)
Week five: Brooke Hill and Abby Schweighardt (Paul Laurence Dunbar)