FORT SCOTT -- Alvin Metcalf's players are willing to work hard. In fact, Fort Scott High School's softball players have actually asked Metcalf to make practices more difficult because, he says, "(They) don't want to be as good as (others) say; they want to be better."
"We started kind of easy going, laid back," Metcalf says. "And I had a few of the players come up to me and ask if I would 'Up the ante' in practice.
"I said, 'What do you mean by that?' and they said, 'We want to be better than we think we are.'"
The Tigers begin the 2012 season Tuesday -- weather permitting -- with their annual home tournament. Pittsburg will play Blue Valley Southwest on the south field at Fisher Park at 4:30 p.m. while Fort Scott plays new entrant Baxter Springs on Don Hewett Field. Baxter replaces Girard in this year's tournament.
The third-place and championship games will begin at about 6:15 p.m.
Fort Scott finished 14-8 last season and was picked by league coaches to finish third this season behind defending champion Labette County and Parsons.
"I really thought we should have been (voted) second considering we beat Parsons last year," Metcalf said. "But they proved themselves by beating Labette County. Tom Schibi is a great coach, great guy.
"And this year in the SEK, you can't look past anybody. (Parsons) is bringing back eight starters. Labette's bringing back six. Pittsburg's bringing back seven. Independence is bringing back, I think they said six. Chanute's bringing back eight. We're bringing back eight. Usually, you might have one or two teams bringing back a lot."
There are 21 players out for the team. Although just two of them are seniors, there are seven full-time starters and one part-time starter returning.
And they want to be pushed.
"Practice has become, I don't know how you'd put it ... Dave Regan-ish?" Metcalf said, comparing his method to that of the late FSHS baseball coach. "The girls have really responded to it, actually. I'm pretty impressed with it."
The demands the girls are placing on themselves are making Metcalf work harder.
"Is it easy? No, because you have to bring your level up, too," Metcalf says. "You can't ever be satisfied -- and I never have been -- but these girls are willing to take a chewing out and work harder. And they know it's all about them being better, not me.
"But these young ladies have responded and they want more out of me than I realized. When they come and say, 'I want practice to be harder,' you can't ask for more than that. And every one of these ladies have responded to it. And it's making me a better coach."
The Tigers' lineup in the field will have different looks depending on who's pitching. If senior Jenna Harper is pitching, then sophomore Delane Gray will play shortstop, junior Sidney Maycumber will play third, junior Shelby Maycumber will play left field and junior Mackenzie Jackman, a transfer from Idaho Falls, Idaho, will be the catcher.
When Harper pitches, Jackman will move to shortstop, Harper to third, Sidney Maycumber to left and Shelby Maycumber will catch.
Kenzie Heatherly, a senior, will start for the third straight year at second base. Junior Hannah Tourtillott begins her third year as the starting center fielder. Sophomore Ericah Shoemaker will begin her first varsity season as the first baseman. And sophomore Riley Brown, a part-time starter last year, will be the right fielder.
Reserve players include sophomores Kelsey Simons, who may get to do some pitching, and Maddi Allen, who is in her first year on the team and can play the outfield or at catcher.
Before all that rain started falling earlier in the week, the Tigers had been able to practice outside more than usual. When light rain fell earlier in the spring, they still worked out in the outfield.
The forecast for Tuesday calls for rain and every other season Metcalf has been the head coach has been affected by rain in one way or another. Hopefully, it holds off until after the tournament is played as weekend sunshine should dry out the playing fields.
"I hope we can get people to come out and see us," Metcalf says. "These girls are excited. They're fun to watch. It's a fast-paced game and these girls are enthused about this season."
NOTES -- Morgan Ratliff, a graduate of Anderson County High School, joins the coaching staff this season along with Amanda Metcalf, Alvin's daughter who played in the State championship team of 2005....
John Metcalf, Alvin's son, and Christian Tavenaro are the team's managers. The elder Metcalf said they expressed interest in being the managers while they were on the bus coming home from the State Wrestling tournament in February....