The Class 2A No. 5 Lady Raiders (5-1) have started the season off hot, with three victories coming by 16 runs or more.
But Pleasant Valley is still hungry.
“Coach (Charles) Martin brought in an Eli Gold book, and he quoted some Eli Gold when he was talking to Gene Stallings about the 1992 national championship team and we shared it with the girls,” Lady Raiders head coach David Bryant said. “We feel like we want to win every game that we’re playing and we can win every game in our hearts, but we haven’t really done anything until we get what we want.”
Pleasant Valley’s desires include winning an Area 12 championship, finishing in the top two at regionals and playing for a state championship.
“When we’ve done that, we’ve done something,” Bryant said. “That’s the path that we’re on.”
The 5-0 start by the young team that features no seniors is mostly credited to focusing, with the help of maturing physically and emotionally during the offseason.
“We have a routine that we do every day and it helps us focus a lot,” Pleasant Valley catcher Tori Shepard said. “Before practice and our games, we do a focus jog. We get three in a row and we run, staying five poles behind each other. And we all run together, stride for stride, and nobody talks. We get focused on what we’re trying to do.”
So far, the numbers Pleasant Valley has put up are eye-opening. The Lady Raiders are averaging 15.8 runs a game on 62 hits. In addition, they slugged five home runs and struck out 12 times in 167 at-bats.
Pleasant Valley was hot from the start, beating Anniston 31-0 and 17-1 this season to start the year.
“We’ve hit the ball really well,” Bryant said. “It makes playing defense a whole lot easier when you’re hitting the ball and scoring runs. Defense is one area we need to improve on. That’s one area we’re a little behind on.”
Even so, the Lady Raiders didn’t struggle in their first area game, defeating Woodland 17-0 Tuesday. But it’s just one small step in avenging last season’s two nine-inning losses in the Area 12 tournament.
“We’re going to have to really continue improving and doing what we have to do to win our area,” Bryant said. “It’s not going to be easy. We’re just going to need to do what we need to do to get the job done.
“Our motto is ‘Commitment, Focus, Preparation and Routine.’ Those are the four components of a book study we did called ‘Mental Toughness.’ It was reflective and involved the girls to do a lot of self-evaluation, and it’s produced a lot of results.”
The offensive production has come from several girls, but none more than Shepard and first baseman Jordan Moorer, a sophomore. Moorer is hitting .643 with four doubles and eight RBIs. Shepard, one of the team’s two juniors, is hitting .636 with six RBIs.
Seventh-grader McKinley Parris is also picking up slack, having already hit three home runs and averaging .500. Tiffany Williams and Kara Perry are both hitting .438.
“It’s really kind of unfair to pinpoint one that’s stood out because we’ve done really well,” Bryant said. “I don’t really want to single one out because everything we do is together. All of them have done well at times.”
On the mound, Anna Craven has shut down opposing hitters.
The sophomore sits at 4-0 with a 1.59 ERA, allowing 17 hits in 22 innings. Christa Lynn is 1-0 with three innings under her belt, not allowing a run.
With seven Area 12 games left this season, the year is still as young as Pleasant Valley’s roster, but the Lady Raiders are sitting pretty so far.
“I think we’ve had a good start to our season,” Craven said. “But I can’t say anything until it’s over with.”
Sports Writer Brandon Miller: 256-235-3575. On Twitter @bmiller_star.