PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

March 19, 2014

Cooper enjoys being team leader

Gabriel Pruett

NEDERLAND — Social media and the ever-expanding Internet has changed the landscape of high school sports.

It used to be players decided where they would play college ball sometime right before their senior year or during their last days at high school. Then the decision was not plastered all over websites and Twitter accounts each and every day.

Nederland senior Tori Cooper has already made the call to play college softball at Arkansas. The beauty of Cooper is she never once even mentioned this fact after being interviewed for about five minutes.

Cooper instead found it far more important to talk about what she is concentrating on these days, playing for the Nederland Lady Bulldogs.

“Playing at Arkansas is a pretty big deal,” Nederland coach Will Mallett said. “There has not been one day where I thought to myself, ‘Tori is just ready to graduate and play college softball.’ She is still as focused on this team as she was every other year at Nederland. That is special.”

Cooper has been a part of the softball team ever since her freshman year. Back then, and over the next three years, she made sure to pay attention to the ways of the older players ahead of her.

She learned what it took to become a great player on the field and a great young lady off the field.

“There was so much to learn from the seniors before me,” Cooper said. “Now it is my responsibility to be a leader. I try to work with the young kids and teach them how to act both on and off the field. Off the field, actions are so important. It is the reason we have such great chemistry. We were struggling with that early on, now this team is a world different and it shows in the results.”

Mallett never has to worry much if Cooper is going to put up positive numbers each and every game.

She is batting .423, has an on-base-percentage of .516, e has scored 23 times, has six doubles and has only struck out five times in 52 at bats.

“When the bat is in her hands, she is in control,” Mallett said. “There are a lot of times when I don’t have to give her signs. She knows what the situation is and she knows what to do and what is best for the team. She can be behind 0-2 and she will likely see eight more pitches.

“She is probably the best bunter in our district, there might only be one faster player in the district and she can go deep. It is a blessing to have a kid like that on your team.”

Mallett even admitted to many times simply taking a step back and watching Cooper play, instead of trying to coach such a gifted athlete.

“She just does a great job,” Mallett added.

Mallett also calls on Cooper in a lot of different scenarios to be the player to get the job done. She can even come in from the outfield to pitch in late-game situations.

“I want to be in those big situations,” Cooper said. “I love those games and those moments. It is what you play for and work so hard to accomplish. That is the moments you live for. Coach Mallett and I formed a great relationship over the last two years. I know I can count on him and he knows he can count on me. It works perfect.”

Cooper has big plans for herself and her Lady Bulldogs teammates. She wants her high school career to end in Austin.

“That is, of course, the ultimate goal here,” Cooper said. “I want to be in Austin. First though we want to finish district with not losing another 20-4A game. We can do it with the way we are playing right now. We are blessed to be in such a strong district. It prepares us for what is ahead in the playoffs.”

And all this work Cooper is putting into her high school career will only lead to brigther days with the Lady Razorbacks.  Just don’t expect her to talk about it until the time is right.