It’s easy to get down on oneself and the team you coach after a 0-9 start. But you won’t find Culver fastpitch coach Jack Layton in that group.

Instead of worrying about his team’s record, the veteran coach is too busy staying upbeat and making sure his young team does the same.

It may seem like an impossible thing to do after the week Culver had. The Bulldogs went 0-7 during play in both the Irrigon Spring Tourney and the Heppner Tournament and were outscored 88-7, but there is an air of optimism as conference play begins this week.

“We got a little bit better, but we didn’t win any games,” Layton said. “But we are moving in the right direction.”

That's all a coach can ask of a team at this point in the season. After starting off 0-9 in preconference play, the Bulldogs opened Class 2A/1A Special District 3 play Monday with a ?????? at Toledo and will close out the week at Western Mennonite.

But the focus now is not wins and losses, but just finding ways to improve and keep things moving forward.

Layton saw plenty of that last week, despite the scores.

The Bulldog pitching staff, as a whole, cut down on the number of walks it has been handing out, and that, in turn, cut down on the number of runs the team has been allowing per game.

Offensively, Culver cut down on its number of strikeouts and for the first time this season, out-hit an opponent during the Irrigon Tournament. But nine errors in that game kept it from posting the first win of the season.

“That’s nothing that we can’t cure,” Layton said. “We’ll just keep working at it.”

One thing that did come out of the week — the Bulldogs were scheduled to play eight games but lost the final one due to weather — was a more stable lineup.

Layton said he has now found girls that he not only believes can play the positions he wants them in, but are willing to do so.

Culver has been set at catcher from the start with Shealene Little behind the plate. But with her missing some nonconference games to attend volleyball camps, her chosen sport, the window has opened for Myra Lopez to show her stuff.

And she has.

Layton said he feels much better about the catching position having two capable options to go to behind the plate and hopes that will help his pitchers down the line.

Speaking of pitching, Cheryl Aldred has shown a lot of improvement and will anchor the staff as it moves forward. But there are others that can still step in and make a difference.

The Bulldog defense is also better situated now with Marie Schumacher fully established as the team’s shortstop.

Layton said he still has a few positions to lock down as far as everyday players, but that will come during the opening week of conference play. After that, it will be fine tuning the little things.

But despite the start, everyone is still upbeat, which Layton likes to see.

“We are doing a lot of good things. The coaches are even starting to make better decisions,” he quipped. “But the team’s attitude seems like it is getting better. There aren’t a lot of Is; it’s always we. And I like that.”

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