There are days when Male softball coach Josh Bloomer may not be in the best mood. At times, he may have to make an extra effort to have the right attitude and energy to coach his girls in practice. But his senior class makes sure he doesn’t have to expend too much energy just to be in good spirits.
“They’re a great group,” he says. “I’ve had a lot of these seniors since they were in eighth grade, and I’m excited about coaching them. They show up and do what I ask them to do. They have great energy and a great attitude, so they make it fun for me when I come in maybe not in the best mood. There are few days where I don’t at least crack a smile or laugh at something they’ve done and their attitudes.”
When Bloomer arrived at Male in 2013, it instantly sparked a special connection with his eight seniors this season. They are a group of girls who have won the seventh region championship each year they’ve been in the program, and by the end of their farewell season, Bloomer may have a combination of smiles and tears as he coaches them for the last time.
“I just want to make sure they enjoy the process and I enjoy the process,” he adds. “It’s kind of bittersweet because it is the last go-around with this group, and next season will be the first year where these kids haven’t been at practice. So I’ve been enjoying it. I’ll keep pushing them and they’ve been receptive to that.”
Without question, the ultimate goal for this Male team, ranked No. 3 by the Kentucky Softball Coaches Association, is to get past just being a seventh region champion to becoming state champion. It would be the ultimate ending for such a special group.
The last couple of years, the focus has been on winning a state crown. This season, Bloomer has worked to keep his team grounded, understanding that if the team and coaches don’t enjoy the process it takes to win a state title, then “it’s kind of all for nothing.”
He returns a plethora of experience, and the goal has been to get his team over mental fatigue once the competition heats up in June. Last year, the Lady Bulldogs’ season ended in the state tournament with two losses to McCracken County and Scott County. In the state tourney, where teams have to win multiple games, Bloomer says, “Mentally, we couldn’t get back to that focus and that preparation that we needed.”
But this year, there is a target on their back, and it’s one Male doesn’t shy away from. It’s taken as a compliment because of Male’s success and dominance within their region. They’re loaded with talented players who have learned the will to win outlasts the skill late in the year.
“I don’t think we go into any game against any team this season and say we can’t compete with that team,” Bloomer adds. “The job my assistants and I have is to make sure our girls know the mental preparation and the focus that you have to have each and every time you step on the field to get the result that you’re wanting. For us to do what we want to do, which is to be the best team that we can be when the postseason rolls around, I have to make sure I have them mentally locked in and prepared. Whatever happens at the end – as long as we came out and competed and focused and enjoyed – I’ll be okay with that.”
Male will be eagerly awaiting the return of senior pitcher Olivia Suski. She had surgery on her pitching arm and is expected to return around the end of April. She, along with her peers in the senior class, have grown exponentially. As she stands in the pitcher’s circle, she will do so with the intent of throwing heat that will leave a stamp on the program in years to come.
“I would not want to play softball anywhere else. I just love the people and I love being around my friends every day,” she says. “Bloomer is a great coach. He makes you work hard and it helps you not just on the field but off the field also. He always tells us how this lesson is going to help us as we grow into women. I am thankful I get to play at Male because I just love it.
“We’ve won regionals ever since he has gotten here. So I want to keep that legacy of working hard and accomplishing goals as the younger girls come through this program. We’ve won four years in a row now and I think we should just keep owning the region and make it far in state, and hopefully this year, we win it.” VT