The Sumter High softball team kicked off its regular season last week hoping to find a jolt on offense.
The Lady Gamecocks have a ton of young talent that needed a nice confidence boost before diving into region play.
One of those players was sophomore Mylah Ardis.
Ardis wasn't hitting as well as she wanted to in the preseason and saw a pair of games against county rivals as a chance to get her bat going.
She did that in spades.
The sophomore made just one out last week, while maintaining excellent play at the hot corner, helping lead the Lady Gamecocks to a pair of wins over Crestwood and Lakewood. As a result, Ardis also earned recognition as the Hines Furniture Athlete of the Week.
"It feels pretty good being around my teammates and having everyone congratulate me," Ardis said of the support.
Sumter High head coach Mike Moss was impressed by the way his young third baseman stepped up last week.
"She had been struggling, but Mylah is a young lady that comes to work every day. She's very quiet, but she really works hard at perfecting her craft," Moss said. "She's always doing the extra things; she's a very coachable young lady. She had a good approach at the plate. She's going to be a dynamic player."
The Lady Gamecocks were confident going into their matchups with Crestwood and Lakewood, which they won 16-0 and 13-3, respectively. Ardis said the key to success was not being overly confident.
"We were just saying, 'We can't let them get in our heads,'" Ardis said. "We know we've beaten them the last few years, but the one thing we didn't do was take them for granted. We didn't go into the games thinking, 'Yeah, we're going to win this.' We went in with a good, positive mindset. We were picking everyone up and cheering everyone on."
Ardis wasn't feeling overly positive about her bat coming into the week, but she didn't play like it. She started by going 2-2 with two RBIs and two runs scored against Crestwood before going 3-4 with four runs scored in the win over the Lady Gators.
"For the last few weeks, I haven't really been in my prime when it comes to hitting," Ardis said. "My fielding has been fine, but stepping up to the plate, I haven't been as confident as I know I should be.
"Knowing I went 5-6, that boosted my confidence level back up and helped me get a better mindset because I've been doubting myself a lot."
Ardis also had a clean game in the field, going without an error. She had three putouts and three assists from the field. She was a utility player as a freshman last season and has now been tasked with one of the toughest positions on the diamond at third.
"I feel so confident whenever I step out on the field," Ardis said. "I have this new confidence level when I stand on third base because I know I've been doing so good."
Moss loves what he's seen out of the sophomore in the new permanent position.
"She makes plays that are tough to make sometimes," Moss said. "Like a little blooper by the fence, she'll make that play. She's capable of going all the way to the backstop on a pop out on the infield to make a play. Agility and quickness are her best assets; she's got a real strong arm. We've been really pleased with her."
Those two games were Sumter High's last chance to face live competition before region play, so that confidence boost was important for a young squad filled with sophomores and middle schoolers along with just three seniors.
"It felt really good because we have a lot of talent, and our team is really young this year," Ardis said. "Being with the group that we have, we have a lot of young girls that have played together since we were kids. As the years come, we're only going to get better over time."
The Lady Gamecocks struggled in their region opener against St. James, falling 12-0 after the long bus ride to the beach. They had a rematch Wednesday at SHS before they make the trip again on Friday. Ardis thinks Sumter High will be able to compete in the region despite a tough start.
"Monday we got off the bus pretty flat. Everyone was tired. Those two-hour bus rides kill us," Ardis said. "But I've been thinking about the games a lot, and I've been thinking we haven't been picking each other up like we should. I have a feeling we're going to be good moving forward in the region because we're going to be backing each other up."
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