February 24, 2012 by wcobserver
Despite the unusually warm temperatures this winter, spring doesn’t really begin until softball players begin stretching their limbs and tossing the ball around the infield. And indeed, that time is near, with teams from West Fork, Prairie Grove and Greenland practicing for the upcoming season.
For the Greenland High School girls softball team, that practice will make perfect. Coach David Stout said he’s scheduled the maximum amount of games allowed, 22, and is looking forward to a great performance from his team, just as soon as they get done with the basketball season, that is. Many of the players on the softball team also play basketball, and the more successful the girls are on the court, the less time they’ll have on the field before game time. The Lady Pirates first game, in fact, is March 5, against Gentry.
“I didn’t lose any starters so everyone except for one girl will come back out this year, so we should be fairly decent,” Stout said. “Right now, we won’t truly see how we’re going to be until basketball’s over. I wish the basketball girls all the luck in the world, but we’ll get started when they get done there. I want them to go as far as they can go.”
The Greenland softball team is fairly young. Four seniors are on the team this year, along with five sophomores who played last year as freshmen. “They’re still going to make mistakes, everyone does, but they have a year’s experience under their belt,” Stout said.
That experience goes well beyond the school year. Two players, Ashley Hipps and Chase Depew, spent time on traveling teams said Stout, and are gearing up like pros.
“My pitcher has been working throughout the year, so I’ve got more dedication out of my pitcher this year.” said Stout. “[The girls in the traveling league have] never done that before. So they’re starting to take on the game and take it serious instead of something to get out of class for.”
Stout said he’s also expecting Senior infielder Cateleen Johnson to really come through for the team this year. Although he stressed the efforts he expects everyone to make.
“I expect this to be the best team I’ve had here. I do have pretty high expectations,” said Stout. “Are they great? I’m not going to come out and say that. Do they have the potential to be? Yes they do, absolutely. So we’ll see how much heart and dedication they put into it.”
While Prairie Grove may have more girls practicing before the season, they still face a few challenges of their own.
“We only have one senior, so we kind of went through one of those rebuilding years last year,” said Coach Chris Collins.
The team was 5-17 last year, 12 of which were lost by two runs or less. The record doesn’t trouble Coach Collins, too much, though. He’s seen the kinds of improvements in his team that will make the difference between a “W” and an “L.”
“We just have a bunch of Juniors and Sophomores out there on the field playing again this year. So we’re still a relatively young, but they’re young with a lot of experience,” said Coach Collins. “I feel like the girls have matured , gotten better; they’ve worked extremely hard to get better…I feel like we’ll come out at the other end of the games this year.”
In fact, the Prairie Grove Tigers set a team record for homeruns last year, more than 20, and they certainly hope to repeat that success this season. With their great batting skills and a relatively young pitcher in Junior Kelbie Brown, the Tigers’ focus this year will be on hitting.
“Softball is one of those pitcher-dominated games. If you have a great pitcher you’re probably going to get close to winning, so we want to make sure, with our younger pitchers, we have plenty of points on the board. So we’ve been doing a lot of hitting, a lot of situational hitting and we’ve also been focusing a lot on our fundamentals.”
Coach Collins said he’s looking at Brown, who hit well over .550 last year, along with power-hitter Christian Parker, a Farmington transfer, to help the team put those points on the board.
Even with the big hitters, Coach Collins said his team is focusing on the fundamentals and banking on the dedication of experienced players.
“The difference 10th graders and 11th graders,” said Coach Collins, “is a year in time but a lot of maturity. They’ve matured and have a different attitude and are much more serious about things this year. Our record last year wasn’t indicative of the season we had.”
The Prairie Grove Tigers play their first game on Feb. 27, against Springdale.
The West Fork Lady Tigers softball team could not be reached, but they play their first game on March 8, against Rogers Heritage according to online game schedules.