Softball players are unique species

By: Cecil Conley, Sports Editor
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Donna Tofft has no interest at all in playing a game of “Zoo” with her Lincoln High School softball players. The veteran coach would rather not know what animal they think she looks or acts like. “I don’t get into that,” said Tofft, who added she can’t knock any activity that builds unity among her players. “The tighter the team,” she pointed out, “the better we play.” The objective of the game is for the players to memorize each other’s animal moniker and recite them upon demand. For example, shortstop Kacie Freymond is a giraffe. Pitcher Nikoli Sharp is a bear. Sharp did not know what to say when asked what makes her a bear. It may be that she is a powerful hitter. Galt High had to bear a 3-1 loss Saturday afternoon after Sharp belted a two-run homer to break a sixth-inning tie. The win was Lincoln’s second in the three-day Victory tournament in Sacramento. The Zebras finished 2-3 in the 16-team Gold bracket. They dropped their first two games, beat Rocklin 7-2 on Friday and lost 10-8 to Casa Roble on Saturday before bouncing back to defeat Galt. Tofft is not concerned with her team’s record at this point as much as she is with the players’ effort. “When you want to play, you can play. You can play with anybody,” Tofft told her players after the win over Galt. “A lot of people are going to look at our record, but it’s going to be misleading.” Five tournament games in three days provided an opportunity for Tofft to see her team at its best and worst. “Obviously, I want to be undefeated,” she said, “but now I know there are things we need to work on.” The tournament also allowed her to evaluate each of her players and determine who can do what. “Girls played their way into the lineup,” she explained, “and girls played their way out of the lineup.” As Tofft gets to know her team, the girls are becoming familiar with each other. Freymond likes “the mesh.” “We’ve got a great group of girls and we’re really coming together,” Freymond said. “This is going to be fun.” “Zoo” is one pre-game activity that the players use to build a bond. If they are comfortable enough to refer to each other as animals, they can handle anything an opponent throws in their direction. Sharp did that in the sixth inning against Galt when she cracked her second homer of the season. She also launched a two-run shot March 1 as Lincoln rallied in its season opener to beat Marysville. The tournament proved to Sharp that the Zebras “play well together. It shows we have a lot of talent.” Tofft realizes that and is already talking about the postseason even though the season is two weeks old. “Welcome to the playoffs,” she told her team after the Galt game. “This is what it’s going to look like.” By then, her players will look like Zebras.