March 25 @ Mulvane
March 28 v. El Dorado
April 4 @ Wellington
April 8* @ Collegiate
April 11 v. Circle
April 15 v. McPherson
April 22 @ Clearwater
April 29 v. Andale
May 2 @ Maize South
May 6 v. Buhler
May 13-14 Regionals
May 23-24 State
As Shane Steinkamp continually hit fly balls to right field, he was making sure his infielders were on their toes. He talked a bit to his catchers as he watched the infielders throw around the bases.
As soon as the play was done, he was already getting the Orioles ready for the next hit without much down time.
It hasn't taken long for Steinkamp's high-intensity practice habits to take hold with Augusta's softball team. The Orioles have started adapting to the new pace Steinkamp, their new head coach, has set for them every day.
"We're always moving," Steinkamp said. "You keep them moving, keep them engaged. That's the biggest thing for anybody is keeping them engaged in what we're trying to learn and do."
Evidence of the Orioles' work ethic came at the end of practice, when Steinkamp split them into two groups for a racing contest. One group started at second base, the other at home, and the players from each team took turns sprinting a lap around the diamond at full speed.
"I like how we run this year," Kalie Robinson said. "I think it will be a big help to us."
"I really want to be defined by our work ethic," Steinkamp said. "I tell them 'We won't be outworked by anybody.' And then it's just the simple part of the game. It's the fundamentals of the game, being able to execute...Work ethic and execution are big. Execution can win a lot of games."
They'll get their first taste of how they've progressed when the Orioles open the season Monday, March 25 at Mulvane. The Wildcats beat Augusta in last year's regional championship to go to State and have given the Orioles problems the past several seasons. But Augusta is highly motivated to reverse that trend.
For Robinson, a senior, Steinkamp will be her third straight new head coach this year, so she has been used to changes. For some seniors, though, there are new positions and techniques to learn.
Destiny Williams will move around the infield to take over the ever-difficult shortstop position and be the vocal leader.
"It's very nerve-wracking. Coming in after Christina Downs and trying to fill her shoes, it's hard," Williams said. "...But just that he thinks I have the power to do it makes me think he has trust in me to do my job."
Williams has been playing through a lingering shoulder injury, though she says she's feeling better every day.
Senior Madie Becker said Steinkamp has broken down just about every facet of the game in ways that Becker says make it easier for the Orioles to know what to do and how to do it.
"He has a different technique with everything," Becker said. "It's more of the little things like making sure that first step in left (field) is back, or making sure that you're standing straight up at first, and then going out. You don't just get into your stance. You have to stand up and then go after the ball."
Becker has had to move to first base because of injuries to her pitching hand.
Robinson, a three-time All-Leaguer, will stay put in centerfield, where she can direct the outfield. Courtney Phillips will stay in left. The duo has been together for a long time and have developed a great friendship.
"We're like sisters," Robinson said. "We get along great."
"We know each other well. We know how to work with each other," Phillips said.
Jenna Lynch will spend some time in right field as well as second base. Lynch may also be a key pinch runner once again.
On the mound, sophomores Brooke Eberhardt and Megan Hayes will be the Orioles' go-to pitchers. Eberhardt has worked with Steinkamp before as her pitching coach. After learning the ropes as a freshman, she said she is more prepared to handle her role this season.
"I've known him and I kind of know what he likes me to do, so that makes me more confident," Eberhardt said. "I feel like I've gotten better at throwing harder. And after being on varsity last year, I know all these girls, and I trust them."
Casady Marlnee brings much-needed experience at the catcher position. Freshman Lauren Fernz, a transfer, will see time behind the plate, as well.
The Orioles feel their offense should be one of their strongest phases of the game.
"Our hitting is amazing," Phillips said.
"When we get on a roll, we're going to be unstoppable," Becker said.
Williams, Robinson, Phillips and Marlnee all should have big years at the plate. Williams even hit a grand slam during practice Wednesday for an exciting moment.
Steinkamp hopes for more of those moments late in the season.
"I've told them since Day 1, we want to be competitive early, we want to be good around mid-April. We want to be great in May," he said. "Get hot when we're supposed to, don't peak too early, but really come out and compete every day."