The 2016 Redwood Rangers Softball team is coming off a year in which it reached the Valley Championship for the third straight season, tallying a 24-9 record. The Rangers have played in the championship game in the 2013, 2014, and 2015 seasons, winning it all in 2014 over Kingsburg High School.
Head Coach Bob Rooney, who has been with the Rangers Softball Program since 1995, says that this year’s team will be young compared to last year’s squad and is eager to get this season going to see how they perform.
“We have six players returning from last year’s team,” he said.”Three of them are now seniors and were on the ’14 team that won Valley. The other three are now sophomores. I am excited about this team though–looking forward to see how we compete against some of the better teams in our league.”
Prior to the 2013 season, the Rangers saw some down years.
“We don’t get to recruit,” Rooney said,”so it had to be the student-athletes that have come to our school, that has been the biggest difference. In our down years, we really struggled with pitching, and we were down for about five years. Since then we’ve been pitching and playing good defense.”
While the season has not yet started, Rooney still feels like he knows what this team will have to accomplish in order to have success this season.
“I do know this team will be really young,” he said.”But we’ll need our pitching to hold up, our defense to hold up, and get hits, especially timely hits. I know that sounds cliché’, but that is the recipe for success.”
Rooney does think the team’s overall lack of experience is a weakness right now.
“We have inexperience,” he said.”It usually takes a while for a team to gel. The returning players will have to share the responsibility of leading the team and sharing responsibility with the younger players.”
With every team that Rooney coaches, there are a couple of things that he stresses, and some things that are especially important when leading a young team. Rooney does like to change some of his strategies from year to year, though.
“I tell them to take care of the little things, and the big things will take care of themselves. I try not to tell them the same thing every year, though, because the players change and every team you have has its own personality,” he said. “People always say that a team should take on the personality of its coach, but I believe it to be the other way around. The coach should take on the personality of the players. A team is like a salad. You have a mix of players, and you’re just trying to find a way to make them all fit together.”
So far as expectations are concerned for this coming season, Rooney is just trying to keep it simple.
“You go into every game trying to win; some teams you play are strong, some teams are weaker than you. We have to do well in our league to make the playoffs and we have some good teams in our league this year. Hanford West is a team that is really good. But we always expect to do well, and I just try to convey that to our players. We’re one of those teams, though, that if we play well, we can beat anybody, and if we play badly we can lose to anybody.”
After being the coach at Redwood for 20 years, Rooney doesn’t picture himself going anywhere. “I see myself being here for the foreseeable future. I have nothing else to do. As long as I’m here teaching here, I’ll be coaching here, and as long as they’ll have me here.”
The Redwood Rangers are going through conditioning, getting themselves ready for the season. They will open up their 2016 campaign with a doubleheader on Saturday, February 20 at home vs. Tulare Western High School. Game times are set for 10am and 12:30pm.