The Central High School dugout is packed with joy and excitement.

Hitters are sent to the batter's box with sing-song chants and cheers. The dugout is filled to the brim with energy.

Many softball teams are renowned for their upbeat attitude, but the Warriors use that energy and enthusiasm to bring the team together.

With a mix of seven seniors and a core of underclassmen, there's a reason Central is excited about the season.

"We have a lot of seniors and two younger girls who started last year so we all play well together," said senior Sierra Dunham.

"We're expecting big things. We're expecting to go to regionals and go to state."

The 2018 Central team needed to quickly develop its own identity after losing four seniors who accounted for 108 of the team's 200 RBI last season.

Dunham said this year's seniors learned a lot about leadership from those graduated players.

"It's a big change because we had the seniors who were leaders, teaching you what to do, and now that they are gone, you have to pick up that job," she said. "There's always things to be picked up after players, who were great leaders and hitters, have left, so the pressure is on, but you count on your teammates as well."

The Warriors went 3-1 at the Southwestern Classic over the weekend and are now 13-5, 3-0 in Southwestern League play.

Central has dominated SWL play for the past several years, winning 31 straight league games until the streak was snapped by Grand Junction last year.

Warriors coach Scott Else doesn't see this team relying on one or two hitters to be the main RBI leaders.

"We've got good leadership, we have a lot of returners," he said. "All the girls, 1 through 9, hit the ball hard."

A look at the statistics supports that claim. The Warriors are hitting .412 as a team, with seven regular players hitting better than .390. Five players have at least 20 RBI, with Dunham and junior Mikayla Sturns leading the team with 25 each.

"I think we're in a good spot, we just have to play the way I know we can play," Else said.

Senior center fielder Jaeda Garcia likes the blend of seniors and underclassmen.

"I think we have great leadership and talent, even from our underclassmen," she said. "We respect each other and I think we have a great team."

Central's No. 1 pitcher, Ashleigh Satterfield, is thrilled to be a leader on the team as a senior.

"We've grown together since our freshman year, so coming into our senior year we're really prepared," she said. "Even though we lost those big seniors, even last year we were preparing because we knew we had to be ready."

Else talks to the team about leadership, but he said being a good leader is more important off the field and in the dugout.

"We talk about leadership a lot, and we expect that from our seniors," he said. "Once we get on the field, there are no classes. No freshmen, sophomores, juniors or seniors. It's all equal."

Else isn't afraid of putting high expectations on his younger players.

The lineup shifts a little, but most of the time he has five seniors, a couple of juniors and always two sophomores.

"We're batting two sophomores in the top four in the lineup, and they got a lot of experience last year," he said about leadoff hitter Mya Murdock and Myah Arrieta.

Those two also key a polished defensive middle infield, joined by senior Aislyn Sharp, who moved from Utah.

"We have three legitimate college-(caliber) middle infielders on this team," Else said.

Dunham understands being a leader means playing well in the field but not being loud and vocal for no reason.

"You don't want to be the person that no one listens to because all you do is yell," she said. "You need to be a team player and you just let them know that you have their back."

All the seniors realize it's their turn to be leaders.

"It's pretty crazy, I've waited four years for this, so it's cool, and I expect to go really far this year," Satterfield said.

Garcia is equally excited about Central's potential.

"I feel like we bond together because we've been playing together for so long," she said. "When your heart is in the game, your head is on the game. When everybody meshes together, it's the greatest feeling in the world.

"It means a lot to every one of us to be part of this team."

Recommended for you