Cheney Free Press 

Slow pitch ideal training ground

Blackhawks coach preaches positives


Last updated 9/21/2023 at 10:51am

CHENEY – If there’s one good thing about fall and slow pitch softball at Cheney High School, head coach Gary Blake knows he’ll not have to contend with soggy fields.

His challenge comes in getting the right numbers to field two teams.

Original turnout stood at 23 but 26 to 30 is the number he strives to reach. Rather than having kids on the bench not seeing playing time, those numbers afford stocking a JV team.

With numerous activities tugging at students, Blake dispels the idea that playing slow pitch will negatively affect spring fast pitch players.

“If they play fast pitch, they think slow pitch is gonna’ somehow screw up their game,” Blake said. But as a person with decades of coaching and playing experience, the opposite is true, Blake contends.

“I originally lobbied to get slow pitch in because I thought it would help our fast pitch program,” Blake said.

In slow pitch, in the course of 10 or 20 games — the traditional high school season length — a player will get two to three times as many fielding opportunities in slow pitch versus fast pitch.

“The ball is in play all the time, “Blake explained. “You don’t you don’t have a dominating pitcher that’s striking out eight to 10 a game.”

Playing slow pitch is not going to improve hitting, but it isn’t going to hurt them, either.

“We preach that you want to swing on the same plane as the ball,” Blake said. “Even if you’re a little bit early or a little bit late, you still get good contact if you’re on plane.”

That said, Blake has just two of his spring players out, but a talented group of freshmen with experience. Band, cheerleading and DECA have siphoned off numbers.

Mia Ashcroft is one of those from spring players as is Serenity Wells.

“Now Mia is really versatile,” Blake said. “I mean, probably just given the mix of kids I have she’s probably going to be in the outfield, but she can also pitch. And she’s a good corner infielder, third base or first base.”

Wells was the backup fast pitch catcher in the spring but Blake plans on her being at first base.

Of the freshmen, Blake said he plans on having three remain on varsity.

“They’re good players,” he said. “But you know they haven’t had the experience of playing against the GSL against kids that are three years older than them. It’s always a learning curve.”

Blake considered the team being relatively strong possibly eight deep and sees the Blackhawks “Somewhere right in the middle of the pack.” In 2022 Cheney finished 10th in the 13-team GSL with a 3-9 league mark and were 5-11 overall.


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