by: JEFF WILSON/THE PIONEER - Madras outfielder Keeley Brown works with Hope King during Saturday's fastpitch clinic.Fastpitch softball, just like baseball, comes down to one simple thing — whichever team catches, hits and throws better wins.

And with that in mind, members of the Madras fastpitch team, just hours away from opening Class 4A Tri-Valley Conference play, were not practicing as a team Saturday afternoon, but conducting a clinic with younger players around the area.

It may not have looked like they were practicing, but as coach Charlie Brown sees it, they were doing much, much more.

“I find this valuable to reinforce everything we’ve told our girls,” Brown said. “It’s their time to teach now and it really resonates with them when they have to teach someone else how to do it. It really makes them have to think and break down the basics.

“Sometimes, kids get too much stuff stuck in their heads, and when you break it down to the basics, the game seems just that much simpler,” Brown said. “I’m a firm believer that practice is just as important as, or even more important, than a game.”

Coming off a 1-1 week that saw the White Buffalos beat La Pine 18-5 and lose 8-3 to Bend, conference play opened Monday with a 5-1 loss to La Salle and fell to 4-7 overall.

Brown had his team take time on Saturday to teach the basics to young girls, and a few boys, instead of focusing on themselves.

Hope King, 8, was one of dozens of kids that took advantage of the opportunity to learn from members of the Buffs’ team. She spent some of her time working on proper throwing and catching techniques with MHS outfielder Keeley Brown.

“I really wanted to come out here and practice softball because this is my first year (to play),” King said. “My dad has been teaching me for two months and I told my dad I wanted to do this because they are the high school players and I could learn a lot.”

Keeley Brown said missing a few hours of practice was worth it.

“I think it’s really important because these kids look up to us, and it’s important that we are out here helping them, building up what they can become,” Keeley Brown said. “And this helps us, too, because we are breaking down our fundamentals, again. It’s always good to refresh and by helping them, it’s helping us as well.”

Coach Brown, who has been a part of the Madras fastpitch scene for years, but is in his first year as the Buffs’ coach, sees the clinics as benefitting everyone involved.

“That’s huge, because when my daughters were younger, we really didn’t have a lot of involvement with the high school,” Brown said. “I think it’s huge that the girls give back to the community, they help out and they remember why they are here. They love the game.”

But their attention will quickly turn to the task at hand.

Madras has seen a hot start melt into an early season swoon. But it’s the way the team has been playing that really catches his eye.

He said he has gotten everything he wanted out of the preconference schedule.

“Things seem to be working real well,” Brown said. “We’re still a real young group (there are seven freshmen in varsity uniforms). The older ones are not getting as frustrated as I thought they were going to. I kind of wish there were one or two more games just to do a little bit more, but all in all, the girls have made huge strides.”

The biggest thing, so far, is the confidence level the Buffs have shown. Despite some losses that could have and should have been wins, Brown said the lessons learned in those games will go far to improving the team.

“We have 15 games left in the regular season and if they keep working as hard as they have been, then there might be more games come postseason,” Brown said. “We’ll see, but my main goal for them to get better.”

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