The Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
NEDERLAND – It’s hard to talk about senior first baseman Amber Sorensen without discussing Nederland’s mid-season coaching change. In fact, it’s hard to talk about any of the four Nederland seniors without bringing it up.
The decision may not have been made by any of the players, but it affected them most of all. So much so that the practice after Monte Barrow was named interim head coach was Sorensen’s favorite moment of this season.
“It’s definitely been a roller coaster ride,” Sorensen said. “Me and the other seniors had to be leaders for the rest of the team with the new coach. It started out really rocky, but we just had to step it up. We started off our season, losing our first couple. Then, we made a change with the coach and it was definitely a turning point. ”
There’s something about baseball and softball where a mid-season coaching change can sometimes energize a team. Look at what happened to the Houston Astros in 2004, when they replaced Jimy Williams with Phil Garner and went on a 48-29 run that led to the National League Championship Series.
Sorensen echoed that, saying that after the change, the entire team felt the pressure lift off them, sparking that undefeated kick to end district play.
“That was my favorite day of my senior season,” Sorensen said. “I feel that was when we came together as a team and turned things around. That first practice was very productive and very motivational. That day, (the coaching change) did (surprise us).
“We kind of thought something might happen, but we didn’t know when it was going to happen. Our coaches just left and then came back, and we had a new coach. It was definitely weird, but we adjusted and I think we did a pretty good job with it.”
The Lady Bulldogs are a young team. There are plenty of juniors and sophomores throughout this roster, which made it very important for Sorensen and the other seniors, like catcher Emily Nolan, to take the lead and make the transition go so smoothly.
“We talked about when we started over after the first half, the seniors made this transition the smoothest,” Barrow said. “With their attitudes, the way they approached practice and during games, it made the younger girls follow that. Amber’s attitude has been great. She’s been steady at first base and that’s what you want.”
Sorensen has played a big role on this team outside of her leadership. She’s a valuable hitter in this lineup, batting ninth most games, but anchoring the bottom of that order. Softball teams, both in high school and college, will view their lineup construction differently. The ninth hitter can be a second leadoff hitter and can be able to come through in late rallies with runners on base.
“There have been some girls at the bottom of the order that could move around, but they’ve come up in big spots for us,” Barrow said. “For us, it’s not about putting our best hitters here, here and here, it’s situational. That’s a good spot for her to be in different situations, because she can handle the bat bunting and also hitting the ball. They allow you to turn the lineup back over.”
The other area that Sorensen has excelled in is as part of a slick Nederland defense. The entire infield has worked together well as a unit, providing a safety net for starting pitcher MaKayla Kelly.
While Sorensen was on the varsity team that went to the playoffs last sesaon, she came in relatively new to first base. It may not have been her ideal position, but she’s worked on a lot of the little nuances to playing over there and has started to feel very comfortable at first.
“I did play first base when I was on JV,” Sorensen said. “I hadn’t played it a bunch my other seasons, but I really do love first base and I’m doing the best I can at it. I think it’s a great position and I’m not going to complain. I’m going to do my best wherever they put me.
“At the beginning of the season, it was a little rough over there, but I feel like I’ve come a long way there. It does take some getting used to with the quick plays. But, every position is like that and you just have to adjust to it.
Sorensen and the Lady Bulldogs will get a test this week, facing the Crosby Lady Cougars. The fourth-seed from District 19-4A, Crosby made an extended playoff run last season after beating 20-4A’s top seed. Because of that, Barrow has been preaching all week to ignore seeds and just play the game.
“I know they’re going to be well-coached,” Barrow said. “We’ve really talked about how seeding is just where to put you. After that, the number can go away. They are going to throw strikes and they’re going to play good defense. Their catcher is really good. She bats leadoff for them, so we’re going to have to keep her off the bases.”
Sorensen will be following teammate Nolan to Angelina Junior College after the season is done, but she’s hoping her teammates can take Barrow on another trip to the state playoffs before her Nederland career is done.
“Our ultimate goal is state,” Sorensen said. “We’ve had a lot of goals throughout the season. We wanted to make first place, we wanted to make a big comeback and we reached those goals, so I’m confident we can keep going. I really do feel like we’re going to take this a really long way, because I’m confident in this team. We’re taking it one round at a time, but I think our goal is definitely state.”