The expansive land in center field suits Mount Baker’s Emma Lallas.
Three years ago that wasn’t the case, when she had little to no experience at any positions other than pitcher and infield. But the Mountaineers’ softball coach Ron Lepper saw in Lallas was a girl that needed to be playing on varsity, no matter where that was at.
“With her doing that, that was the big thing — finding a place to help us as a team,” Lepper said in a phone interview. “She wanted to play, and that was the way to get her on the field. Get on the field and play.”
Both are reaping the rewards of their mutually-beneficial decisions, with Lepper having a senior captain manning the most important position in the outfield and Lallas guiding Mount Baker to a strong start to the season.
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The Mountaineers, after weathering a few early-season injuries, have found success with an 9-3 overall record, going 5-1 in Northwest Conference games.
Lallas has been at the heart of everything, both figuratively and literally.
Where it all starts for her is in the outfield, a place that was once so foreign to her becoming like second nature.
“I played right field the first game. I didn’t know where to stand,” Lallas said in a phone interview. “I’m loud, and I like to be loud and aggressive, and in center field you call off left and right.”
The progression was simple. First left, then right and finally center field — a position that allows her to roam freely with the larger space.
It is, as she explained, her true love to play in the outfield, but she’s also provided a strong, patient presence in the middle of Mount Baker’s potent lineup.
Lepper’s group enters play Friday averaging a league-best 10.3 runs per contest, scoring at least seven runs in nine of its 12 games so far. Again at the heart of that production is Lallas batting cleanup, pairing with Aleks Toivola and Emily Yost to make one of the most feared trio’s in the NWC.
How she’s found so much success at the plate is simple — her approach never strays too far from the basics.
“I’m going to smack the heck out of the ball (until) I see it’s a ball,” she said. “As soon as I see the one I want to hit, I say ‘yes.’”
Nothing to it.
Lepper lauded his senior for understanding the mental aspect of the game.
She isn’t one to press and try to do too much, he said, even when Yost missed the early part of the season due to an injury she sustained near the end of the girls’ basketball season.
“She’s one of our captains, she’s a three-year starter and we expect her to lead by example out here and be ready to work,” Lepper said. “Be one of those girls we point to and say, ‘This is how we do it.’”
Her simplistic approach to hitting merely stems off a larger, more important characteristic to the senior’s game — having a quiet mind.
The burden many in her position might have tried to bear alone with the loss of two significant returners from 2013 didn’t bother her. It was out of her control, and nothing more need be said of it.
“If you’re older, you’re a leader, and we lead more by example,” she said. “I think any player thinking too much is not good for the team. Players making mistakes is because you’re thinking too much.”
She no longer has the luxury of costly mistakes with it being her final year. That isn’t weighing on her too much, though, she said, or at least not as much as the constant grind of being a three-sport athlete rarely having any time off in between seasons. Lallas has been ingrained in the fabric of Mount Baker athletics since her freshman year, playing basketball and volleyball to go along with softball.
As she said, though, all things near an end. All that remains an unknown now is how she sees her career coming to a close.
“I hope, I think we will do great this season,” she said. “I’m going to miss playing with these girls and Mount Baker.”
Reach Alex Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.