Michael Kelly/Recorder staff Mayfield softball catcher Jen Little, left, sets up a makeshift home plate next to first-year head coach Jamie Hurd during a recent practice. The Lady Panthers' field was still under snow, leaving the club to practice in the school's parking lot.
Michael Kelly/Recorder staff Mayfield softball pitcher Anna Husain smiles during a recent practice.
Michael Kelly/Recorder staff Almost ready Mayfield softball's Lyndsey Barber makes a play during a recent practice. The high school baseball and softball seasons begin regular-season play this upcoming week.
By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
MAYFIELD -- From the pitcher's circle, it is usually Mayfield softball's Anna Husain who is baffling and confusing all comers. The left-handed senior was the Recorder's Pitcher of the Year a season ago, as she struck out 112 batters in 127 innings, often making executing her craft look simple.
The confidence Husain possesses in the circle is what made her confusion at a preseason practice earlier this week so notable, the rare time when something involving the game was not completely under her control.
What was it that stumbled Husain? Well, nothing that had to do with real softball -- or anything close to it. Rather, it was the senior's attempt to horn in on the special connection of Mayfield's two other senior leaders, twin sisters Jen and Nicole Little. Deeming herself the "third triplet" to go along with the pair, Husain was rebutted -- kind of.
"Jen, am I the third triplet?" she calls out, a hopeful tone to her voice.
When the answer she wants -- an emphatic 'Yes' -- is not received, Husain back-tracks after a moment and says that Nicole would have agreed with her.
That's when things completely get away from Husain.
After her initial hesitation in responding, Jen Little -- Husain's catcher -- finally pipes up.
"We're all more like Golden Retrievers," she says, an answer that leaves Husain and everyone else more than a little dumbfounded. After picking her jaw off the ground, Husain responds.
"If that's in the paper," says Husain, laughing, "that's going to be really embarrassing."
That's likely the only time this season, though, that Husain will not be in charge. Along with the Littles, Husain acts as first-year head coach Jamie Hurd's base for this year's Lady Panthers, which finished in second place in the Western Athletic Conference North Division a year ago.
"The talent level, even though all of our girls don't play year-round, you still a definite improvement from last year," says Hurd of this year's club. "But it starts with your pitching, and I have a strong pitcher."
The Lady Panthers have several returning players, something that third baseman Nicole Little says has helped make the transition for the club's rookies a little easier.
"We get to mentor them a bit," she says. "They're all working really hard, too."
"We try to stand as leaders for the younger kids," Jen Little adds.
The biggest adjustment for Mayfield has been getting used to Hurd, the team's new coach. Hurd replaces Hillary Cool this season, and was a late addition to the Lady Panthers.
"We were worried at first because we didn't have a clue who was going to be our coach," says Nicole Little. "But she's been good. ... She's making us run a lot more than we ever have before for softball."
Mayfield has a pair of games scheduled for next week, with a trip planned Tuesday to Sharon Springs and a Thursday visit to Broadalbin-Perth. The team's senior leaders say the Lady Panthers are ready to get going.
"We have a good base from last year, so we know who is going to play where," says Husain. "But we also have some key players that we still need to find."