Filed by Kelley Smiddie
Baylor coach Kelli Smith and Red Bank coach Mandi Cline may not take the same approach when it comes to preparing their softball teams, but it would be difficult to believe that their differences could rival their likenesses.
Each is a former high school shortstop from the 1990s now guiding the programs where they once played. Each signed an NCAA Division I scholarship. The former Kelli Howard and former Mandi Green are each married now.
Thanks to the developments at the end of last season, another comparison can be drawn between the two.
Cline, now in her fifth season as chief Lioness, guided the Lady Lions through the treacherous steps of the playoffs last year and they culminated their season with an unlikely Class AAA state championship. Smith had already led her band of Lady Raiders to two Division II state championships before capturing a third last spring.
What made Red Banks title run improbable was it lost twice in the District 6 tournament and once in the Region 3 tournament, yet never in an elimination game. The team the Lady Lions beat in the state final, Soddy-Daisy, was the same team it lost to in the district and region finals.
Whats worse was the first time the teams played, March 30, the Lady Trojans broke out with an eight-run first inning on the way to winning 10-0 in five. At the time Cline said, Id rather this happen in March than in May.
How spooky was that? She may want to look into a second career as a soothsayer.
In true Raider-like fashion, Baylor has become infamous for stealing victories under Smith, now starting her fourth season.
We kind of earned the nickname The Comeback Kids, Smith said. So many times we were down to two outs, even with two strikes, and found a way to tie it up and win it.
One other similarity between Smith and Cline is that neither has been chosen Coach of the Year on the Times Free Press Best of Preps team. The regular season has to weigh heavily in the newspapers consideration for spring sports awards. Athletes and coaches summer travel plans and time constraints at the end of the school year are the main concerns.
Regardless, no sheet of newspaper is necessary to convince the young women who have played for these coaches, and will play for them in the coming years, what diligent, dedicated leaders they are.
For more of Smiths and Clines thoughts of their championship journeys and the consequences that come with them, see Fridays Weekend Slam in the Times Free Press.
E-mail Kelley Smiddie at firstname.lastname@example.org