LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Coming off the first season in six under head coach Josh Bloomer in which they didn't win the 7th Region title, Male had high hopes for the 2019 softball season.
"I knew it. I knew it from day one of conditioning we had something special," junior third baseman Jasmine Miller said. "We only lost two seniors last year, so we still had basically the same team. I knew what everyone had to bring to the table, and I knew we were gonna get it done."
"No, I did not see that coming," Miller said.
That's Male's record as they begin region play this weekend. A team that has just one senior is just the third team in the fast-pitch era of Kentucky High School softball to finish the regular season without a loss.
It's one of the few things coach Josh Bloomer had not accomplished in his years as a head coach. Bloomer won five region titles in eight years at Mercy Academy, was a state runner-up in 2009 and 2010 and won a state title there in 2012. He left Mercy to take a JCPS teaching job, and when Male was looking for a coach, he decided to give that a go in 2013. A school that hadn't won a region title promptly won five straight, including state runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2017.
"There's just a level of expectation that's been put on the kids that you're not going to play perfectly, but you're always going to give perfect effort," Bloomer said.
His success at a rival school and a reputation for being perhaps hard to play for made his first few days at Male challenging.
"Some of them said they were sitting in class and going 'My gosh, I'm not playing this year,'" Bloomer said with a laugh. "I was the bad guy, and they'd seen the games. They had seen the intensity and the interactions. They didn't know where that came from, and they got here, and then they were like 'No, we didn't like you. There was no way we'd ever play for you, but now that we're in it, we see the difference.'"
"I like him as a coach," senior second baseman Madison McCoy said. "Our relationship on and off the field is great. Most people wouldn't think of him as ideal, like what they want for a coach because of how hard he is on us. I appreciate that honestly, because he's always holding us accountable. He's always giving us good information, and we wouldn't be here without him."
The Central Hardin High School graduate said he learned a lot from the baseball and football coaches when he played there, but he learned the most about coaching girls when he was an assistant softball coach at Grayson County High School for John Skaggs.
"A lot of the information I learned about coaching girls — about how to deal with them and how to push them and how to motivate them and to actually show them that you care came from him," Bloomer said.
Bloomer knew he had a talented group to start this season, but it was a mid-season tournament win in Alabama that really convinced him he might have something special.
"When we did what we did in Alabama, I thought we were maybe a month ahead of schedule," Bloomer said. "And then we came back, and we kept playing, and I thought, 'This team is just better than where I thought we'd be.'"
And this is a team that lost its starting shortstop and one of the team's best hitters in junior Morgan Zuege to an early-season hamstring injury.
Male is hitting .383 as a team with 59 home runs, and they are outscoring opponents by an average score of 9-1.
Bloomer also said a big part of this team's success is how well they all get along and how they sacrifice their egos for the good of the group.
They'll begin a push toward another region title when they host Presentation at 11 a.m. Saturday. The semi-finals are Sunday at the University of Louisville's Ulmer Stadium with the final Monday at U of L.
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