by Katelyn McLean | Staff Writer
Whitworth softball’s new head coach, Bob Castle, hopes to replicate the team’s successes on the softball field under previous head coach Cristal Brown.
In July of 2019, Brown was hired as the head softball coach at Idaho State University, which left Whitworth athletics scrambling to find a new coach. Thankfully, because of Castle’s previous experience with the Whitworth softball team, he was a good candidate for the job.
“What was nice was that we already had a group of us that had worked underneath coach Cristal Brown, and so it was just an easy decision because of the last moment of the transition, for the athletic director to look to see what he had already on campus,” Castle said.
Castle took a year off from being an assistant coach last year, but prior to that, he had worked for four years as an assistant coach.
“I think that our team is really excited about the new coaching staff. The older girls on the team have played under coach Castle in the past when he was an assistant coach, and we know he really cares for us and wants our best interest in mind,” junior outfielder Brynn Radke said.
“Overall, the coaching change has only made our team dynamic stronger, and I’m looking forward to what this season has to offer,” junior infielder Sara Gayer said.
Although the team largely views the coaching change as a positive thing, it did bring some unique challenges.
“We’re really small in numbers this year, so it’s going to be very important that every single one of them is prepared on and off the field,” Castle said.
Due to a combination of players following coach Brown to her new program and coming in behind on recruiting because of the late hiring, the team is the smallest in quite a while at only 15 players.
“The 15 girls we have are all athletic and versatile. We have some girls in positions they haven’t played in the past, and they are all going to step up in big ways. I think the team this year is going to be very scrappy and surprise a lot of people,” Gayer said.
“The fact that it is a small team is a little different, so that’s something that we all have to understand our individual value on the team and know our role and know what’s important,” Radke said.
Castle’s biggest goal for the new season is to build on the success that the team built under Brown’s leadership.
“On the sports side, making sure that we are making them the best possible players that we can be. This program is the past couple years, a team that is used to winning championships or playing for championships,” Castle said.
Players are also coming into the season with their own personal goals.
“Softball is a game of failure and a huge mental battle. Sometimes, I can get easily frustrated with myself when I make an error or strike out or ‘fail’, which will only cause me to make more mistakes,” Gayer said.
“My goal this year is to be a little more consistent from weekend to weekend instead of having highs and lows,” Radke said.
In the face of transitions and ups and downs, Whitworth softball hopes to stay true to what they know, as well as continuing to move forward in the face of change.
“For this staff, there’s a lot of pressure. There’s a lot of weight on our shoulders to make sure that we continue the tradition that’s been set, and to also create a new identity as well as we move forward,” Castle said.
Whitworth softball faces a competitive weekend with two games on Friday, Feb. 21, Saturday, Feb. 22, Sunday, Feb. 23 against Schreiner, Texas Lutheran, and Trinity in Texas.