Preseason practice starts May 7 in the 10th season of Head Coach Heather Fortune’s successful career at the helm of Lady Falcon Softball. Since 2008, after taking over the Falcon softball program, Coach Fortune has put the Lady Falcon girls of summer in the win column 226 times with only 74 defeats.
Fortune is also a math teacher so that equates to a .750 winning percentage. In those 10 winning seasons the Lady Falcons have made three state tournament appearances (2010, 2012 and 2014).
Coach Fortune was very excited to have two new coaches added to the Falcon roster this season. Both of these two new coaches also started on all three of the Lady Falcon state tournament teams. Breanna Fortune and teammate Brennan Banks have signed on to be the junior high softball coaches this season. These new coaches are completing their senior seasons on the Graceland University softball squad. Breanna a four year pitcher for the Yellowjackets and Brennan doing the catching during their collegiate careers.
I asked Coach Fortune for a quick walk-through of the workouts and insights on the fast approaching softball season and some things she and the girls will focus on this season.
Coach Fortune, “We have three returning seniors: Haylee Fortune- pitcher, Tylar Greene – catcher and Raeshell Andrews - middle infielder.
These girls have continued to give up their summers to play a sport they love. They work hard, have a strong desire to win, they make everyone around them work hard when it is time to work and are the life of the party when it is time to have fun. I appreciate their dedication to our program and look forward to a great season with them.”
What are some highlights of last season that encourages you about this season and the performances of your undergrads?
Fortune, “We have several returning starters to our line-up this season: Bayleigh Kellis, junior, 1st baseman with a fielding percentage of 0.976; Camryn Jacobsen, freshman in/out utility - she can play anywhere other than the pitchers mound - of which she would have probably tried if I told her she had to for the team!; Raegan Tilley, junior, centerfielder - speed and great glove - work ethic that is unmatched by most; Brooke Bailey, sophomore, 3rd base - had a 300+ batting average all last season.
We have a very strong group of underclassman as well as three eighth graders that have been working hard in the off season, they want to play and are looking to land a starting position this year."
Your battery of pitching experience and leadership roles from the mound? You have told me how thankful you are for the girls and parents who make big sacrifices in time and travel to improve their game over the off seasons.
Fortune, “I am beyond fortunate that I have four pitchers this year on our team that take individual pitching lessons in the off-season. They faithfully throw three days a week. (Haylee Fortune, Emily Jones, Sterling Berndt and Maddy Wood). People do not understand the sacrifices these girls go through during the off-season when they have to choose between free time and getting a pitching workout in and sometimes it is a struggle. These girls are four sport athletes and maintain high marks in their academics. They have an internal motivation to be better than they were the day before!”
The POI conference is a tough row for any team, upper or lower classmen. How will the Lady Falcons match up this year in experience?
Fortune, “POI Conference will continue to be strong this year. This will be the last season I-35 and Pleasantville will be a part of our conference. Martensdale St. Marys will return many of their starters from last season. Lenox should be strong again this year. We plan to make a run at the conference title this year!”
Are the girls ready to get started after a very cool spring?
Fortune, “We will officially start practice this year on May 7. My favorite part of softball is the first week of practice - energy levels are high, the daily grind has not set in yet, girls are not down on themselves or holding on to an error or a strikeout from the night before, we spend additional time doing team building activities and everyone is working hard for a desired position. The hard part of coaching is maintaining that level of energy, fun and competitive nature throughout the season. I have a great group of girls signed up for softball this year and look forward to getting started.”
What can we expect out of the batter’s box the first game of the season?
Fortune, “A large majority of our girls have taken advantage of hitting once a week during the off-season - I am excited to see the improvement in those girls—we will be aggressive as usual.”
Are you on the same page with your assistant coach?
Fortune, “I can't say enough good things about my assistant coach Dally Veach. She is so knowledgeable in and about the game, has a fantastic rapport with the girls, she has an equal desire to improve every game and come out with the W as I do, she is organized to a pain, brings new ideas to the field, puts in additional time with girls who need more reps and above all cares about the program and the girls. I am lucky to have her.”