The Woodland Park High School softball team made five consecutive postseason appearances from 2011 to 2015. Now, after a three-year drought, the Panthers are confident they have the right stuff to return to the playoffs.
“This year I think we have a really good chance,” said Jada Boddy, a four-year starter and one of two seniors on the team. “Most of us played a lot over the summer and we all improved. We have to have confidence in each other. If we have more faith in one another we will be able to execute better.”
Boddy is a great example of how much a player can improve with skill, hard work and dedication. She had never played softball prior to her freshman year. Last year, she was second on the team in batting (.492), RBIs (24) and runs (30).
The team’s other senior is Dani Thrailkill. She led the team in several offensive categories last fall, including batting (.515), home runs (4) and RBIs (35). Thrailkill is among several players who have shown dramatic improvement since joining the team.
Thrailkill and Body were both captains last season.
Most of the Panthers have been playing together in some capacity (spring workouts, club ball, etc.) since last spring.
“The girls have been dedicated since March and they have a lot of pure heart for the game,” Thrailkill said. “We’ve gotten comfortable with each other and we’ve become all sisters.”
Thrailkill believes confidence will be one of the main ingredients to success for the Panthers.
“A lot of the girls have the talent, but they just don’t know how to use it yet,” she said. “We’re trying to push them to get the most out of their talent. Everybody on this team can contribute and help us out.”
The Panthers are not only looking to qualify for regionals for the first time in four seasons, but also make an historic run to the state tournament.
The Colorado High School Activities Association resurrected softball in 1999. Woodland Park qualified for the Class 4A state tournament in 1999, 2000 and 2001, losing in the first round each time.
Woodland Park was 10-13 last season, 5-3 in the Class 4A Metro League behind Elizabeth, Mesa Ridge and Widefield, respectively. The Panthers lost to all three of those teams.
Among Woodland Park’s returning nucleus of talented players are junior Gabby Cox (.443) and sophomore Sierra Hilgner (.424).
Woodland Park coach Dale Huntington said players to watch are junior Kassidy Cargill and sophomore Haley Anthony.
The Panthers opened their season Tuesday, Aug. 20 at home against Palmer Ridge, Woodland Park plays four games in five days to begin the season. They play at Falcon on Friday and two games in the Coronado tournament on Saturday against Pueblo East and Coronado. Both games are at Holmes Middle School, near Coronado. The Panthers open league play at home against Canon City on Aug, 29.
Woodland Park can qualify for the postseason by winning its league or finishing in the top 32 in the RPI standings.