How Eagle softball is handling national hype
Senior Bradie Fillmore braced herself for Eagle’s first practice this spring.
Every member of the Mustangs’ varsity team plays club softball, and Eagle returned all but one starter from a year ago. But nine months had passed since Eagle won the 5A state title, and she knows the first time on the diamond is always rough, especially in the field.
Instead, the Mustangs whipped the ball around the field, showing no signs of rust or a championship hangover.
“We were totally fine, and it felt like we just picked up where we left off,” Fillmore said. “It just clicked. We felt like we never stopped playing with each other.”
Unfortunately for the rest of the Treasure Valley, the Mustangs have yet to stop pummeling opponents. Eagle is 21-0 overall and 14-0 in the 5A Southern Idaho Conference, making the defending state champs 51-1 since the start of the 2015 season.
Eagle’s dominance has grabbed national attention. The Mustangs rank second in a pair of national polls: the CBS MaxPreps Xcellent 25 and the The USA TODAY High School Sports/ National Fastpitch Coaches Association Super 25.
12.1 Average margin of victory for Eagle since the start of the 2015 season.
Those rankings typically fall to schools from warm-weather states that play year round. But Eagle’s jaw-dropping numbers and its roster full of college talent have forced national outlets to turn their attention to Idaho.
“We probably wouldn’t put up 20 runs on the top 10 teams in the nation, but I think we could hang with them,” said Eagle coach Nicole Rollins, who took over the program after former coach Doug Corta died in the offseason after battling a brain tumor.
“I think the girls are handling it well. At first, it was exciting. And it’s exciting for the people who didn’t see it and weren’t a part of it last year.”
Fillmore said she gets recognized at the gas station if she’s wearing Eagle softball gear. But after entering the MaxPreps rankings midway through last season, finishing 2015 as the No. 10 team in the nation and steadily climbing throughout the spring, Fillmore said the Mustangs are used to extra eyes on them.
“The national attention is awesome,” said Fillmore, who committed to Cal after her freshman season. “It’s great for the Valley and all the other kids here. But I think we try to not let it get to us, because that’s not the most important thing. In the end, we won’t play those other teams and it’s based on stats. What matters now is our high school season and our ultimate goal of winning state.”
Eagle remains the clear favorite to repeat as state champion. The Mustangs average 13.6 runs per game while hitting .463 as a team, led by Fillmore’s .750 batting average (all stats before Thursday’s game). Eight players have belted at least one home run.
“One through eight right now are swinging well, and they can all hit a home run,” Rollins said. “It’s great to walk Bradie Fillmore, but then you have Martha (Tooley) following her. And if Martha doesn’t hit it out, Hailey Fisher hit a grand slam in the state title game for us. Every one of them has the potential if they’re on.”
.821 The Mustangs’ team slugging percentage in 2016 (entering Thursday’s game).
Add in the pitching duo of Fillmore and junior Autumn Moffat, and Eagle has made quick work of opponents, winning via the mercy rule in 15-of-21 games this season.
Moffat, a BYU commit sporting a drop ball and a changeup, owned a 0.71 ERA with 58 strikeouts in 49 innings going into Thursday’s game. Fillmore, who attacks hitters with a rise ball, also has a 0.71 ERA with 111 strikeouts in 49 innings. Fillmore has thrown five no-hitters, Moffat three.
-0.31 Bradie Fillmore’s fielding independent pitching — an advanced analytics stat designed to strip out the defense’s factor in a pitcher’s ERA — this season entering Thursday.
But Eagle learned the hard way last year all those stats are just a measure of past performance and not a guarantee of future success when they fell to Mountain View in the district semifinals. The Mustangs received another scare April 15, when they entered the bottom of the seventh inning against Boise trailing 5-2 before Tooley delivered a walk-off win with a solo home run.
Rollins said she harps on the team to focus like it’s playing the U.S. Olympic team every day. As Boise proved, any team can rise up and threaten the most dominant squad, no matter how many accolades they receive, how high their stat totals rise or how sharp their first day of practice was.
“I feel like it humbled us,” Moffat said of the come-from-behind win. “It might have been getting to our heads a little bit, and the fact that we almost got beat, I feel like it helped us and it will make us play better, work better as a team.
“And it showed we can actually play together as team and come out of any situation.”
Eagle hit 65 home runs last season on its way to the 5A state title, unofficially tying for the second most by any team in U.S. history, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations’ record book. The Mustangs have hit 45 through 21 games this season, putting them ahead of their 2015 pace.
Erwin Unicoi County (Tenn.)
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