Tori Cragan has a team-first mentality on the softball diamond.
The Central Cabarrus junior doesn't mind where on the field she plays or what her batting average looks like as long as she can help the Vikings.
"One person doesn't make a ball team," she said. "It takes nine players on the field for a team to succeed."
That approach seems to be working for Cragan, as she was named all-state as a sophomore at first base, batting nearly .500 last season and helping Central reach the second round of the state playoffs.
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Central Cabarrus coach Doug Buckwell said Cragan's success also comes from her dedication.
"She's one of the hardest workers I've ever seen," said Buckwell. "Even as a freshman, she caught your eye, she was always wanting to be better - regardless of what it took."
Cragan, who has been a starter for the Vikings all of her high school career, is used to working hard to better herself on the diamond, playing softball year-round since she was 11.
Cragan plays for her dad, Lester, on the Concord-based Carolina Blast travel team. The elder Cragan is an assistant for the Vikings.
The 17-year-old's work ethic has meant often staying after practice or taking the field on off days to work on hitting or other aspects of her game.
"I find new things to work on to make me better," she said.
Buckwell said that experience has helped Cragan, a self-described fundamental and scrappy player, be smart on the diamond - in everything from hitting to running bases.
"The knowledge she has of the sport of softball and always wanting to get better makes everyone around her better," said Buckwell.
Cragan's experience could be essential in how well the Central Cabarrus team performs.
The Vikings, which were 19-8 last year to finish third in the South Piedmont Conference behind Jay M. Robinson and Mount Pleasant, lost six seniors, including two all-state players in shortstop Lindsey Brown and catcher Chelsea Hartsell, so the team has had to regroup and find talent to fill the voids left after graduation.
Cragan feels the pressure of helping her team succeed after losing so much.
"It's a big shoe to fill," she said. "I think we can do it, it'll just take some time."
Central kicked off the season 3-2 with Cragan leading the way.
"Right now, she's one of the hottest bats we have," said Buckwell. "Her power is going to be even better than it was last year."
Cragan said she's improved on her hitting, being able to see more balls and having the ability to adjust her swing at the mound.
"I've grown more confident in myself," she said. "After hitting so hot my sophomore year, I know I can do it."
The Vikings are also getting a boost from senior T.J. Fain, an all-conference center fielder, and junior pitcher Mellena Helms, a returning all-district player.
But the Vikings start three freshmen, which Buckwell knows will mean the team will endure through some growing pains especially early in the year. He isn't too worried about that though.
"The future is really bright," said Buckwell.
"I think this is going to be a really, really good team by the end of the season."
Both Cragan and Buckwell said the focus now is to build better chemistry among the Vikings so they can continue to get better.
Even though Central is young, Buckwell hasn't held back on his expectations.
"We always set our goals high," he said. "If we keep growing, by the end of the season we could be one of the teams to compete for the conference. By that time, hopefully it'll be time for us to be shining."
Cragan, who Buckwell said has stepped up to mentor her younger teammates, hopes to again do anything she can to help her team win.
That's why she switched to third base, where she fit the best with this year's talent.
"We just use what we have and make it work," she said.