Archbishop Spalding pitcher Ali Caulkins spent much of the winter indoors, rigorously working on conditioning, throwing and hitting to prepare for the softball season.
To help offset the challenges or preparing for a spring sport during a snowy winter, Caulkins' father put up a batting cage in Spalding's gymnasium so the entire team could get in some work.
Caulkins is one of many seasoned players who know that getting ready for softball games doesn't always involve a diamond.
"The weather has been challenging because it is very different to pitch inside rather than outside," said Caulkins, an All-Metro first-team pick last season. "The conditions are different, especially in the beginning of the season with cold temperatures. Fighting for gym time is very difficult when you go to a school with so many sports teams."
Broadneck coach Deanna Romeo-Hamilton said her veteran players are used to having the cold weather leading up to tryouts. On top of having indoor practices with their travel teams, the majority of them will reserve time at one of the indoor facilities in the area and some will work with private instructors.
"A lot of girls will even set up batting practice in their basements just so they can get their reps in," Romeo-Hamilton said. "Obviously, things would be a lot easier if the weather cooperated with us."
For some, preparation never stops. Once the summer season ends with the Catonsville Chaos softball team, Mount Hebron pitcher-outfielder Evvie Buehlman trains at Hannigan Performance in Howard County until spring practice starts. Buehlman also has throwing sessions with her pitching coaches, Heather Costigan and Lisa Banse.
"The softball season never really ends for me," Buehlman said.
Mount de Sales third baseman Hannah Cimerola spends much of her offseason working on fundamental skills, focusing on footwork, proper fielding technique and other drills that help her keep up with the speed of the game. Also, Cimerola does strength and conditioning with a coach once a week to keep in shape in the offseason.
While the veterans have defined workouts, some younger players find the early starts to practice and wintry conditions more challenging. They have never been to a high school tryout, but many of them play travel ball and have experienced having to compete for a spot on the team.
"I think the biggest challenge for the younger players is trying to find out how they best fit into the program," Reservoir coach Julie Frisvold said. "I rely heavily on my returners to welcome them and show them the ropes. This year, in particular, several of my seniors did an amazing job of including the younger players in offseason workouts and conditioning. When tryouts started, I could see that many of the younger players were very comfortable and familiar with the team's routine."
Mount de Sales coach Pete Waskiewicz said club teams have helped keep players sharp. Some teams travel to Florida during the winter to play games.
"This allows the players, young and old, to get a good start when practice begins," Waskiewicz said "Some of the schools are allowed to practice two hours a week. This helps the older player to get the reps in practice and the younger player to see the new coach. ... If you're lucky enough to have good club players on your team with good practice skills, this will help a lot with the younger players."
Top-ranked Eastern Tech coach Jack Meyers is a firm proponent of players getting into a routine, whether it be indoors or outdoors. His team hits between 60 and 75 balls in practice and continuously fields ground balls and pop-ups.
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"We are big believers in getting as many reps as possible," Meyers said.