Contrasting pitching styles to benefit softball squad
Rainy weather hasn't dampened the spirits of the Baldwin High School softball players, as they know they have two star pitchers ready for the first game today.
Since the middle of last week, soggy weather has soaked the BHS fields and forced the Bulldogs to practice inside. The rain has created problems for BHS, which is scheduled to begin the season with a single game at 4:30 p.m. today at Central Heights.
"We're disjointed with only two practices available during spring break, which were Monday and Tuesday," coach Ginny Honomichl said Monday. "We were sort of helter skelter today with the threatening weather."
One thing helping the Bulldogs in their opener is their experience on the mound. Senior Courtney Johnson and Junior Callie Craig return after each having two years of experience pitching varsity softball.
Both are excited about beginning the season against the Vikings.
"I'm very excited to start the season because we have been practicing really hard and trying to find what works," Craig said. "I'm also excited to see how we play."
Johnson is also ready to see how well the team will play.
"I'm very, very ready and excited to finally start playing and see what our team is really made of," Johnson said.
Last season both Craig and Johnson pitched for the Bulldogs. Craig was selected to the first-team All-Frontier League along with sophomore Alex Zordel.
Although no awards followed Johnson last year, she has signed a letter of intent to play softball for Hutchinson Community College next spring.
The Bulldog duo could be problematic for opposing batters.
"Courtney and I's experience helps a lot because we know what to expect and we won't be as nervous as the new girls," Craig said.
Both pitchers present problems for hitters, but with vastly different styles.
"Courtney is basically more of a power pitcher," Honomichl said. "Callie is a location pitcher. We will start Callie and there is no way not to do that. But, we definitely have to work Courtney in. The combination of two pitchers being so different is really not such a bad thing.
"If people start timing Callie and she tires, then we put someone else in there who is a totally different pitcher," Honomichl said. "It will take them a period of time to adjust. Some of our success of being able to take advantage of our pitchers comes with how smart the coach can be on when to make those switches."
Johnson agreed with her coach, saying the contrasting styles make it hard for opponents to prepare for either pitcher.
"Since our pitching styles are different, it makes it easier on us and harder for the other teams," Johnson said. "It's always good to have different looks for pitching because it throws the batters off. We have different strengths which is a good thing to have and should bring us much success."
Last spring, if one pitcher was struggling or wearing down, the other would provide relief. Both girls hope to do the same for each other this year.
"Having two pitchers that are different makes our options a lot more open," Craig said. "If one of us is having an off day, the other one would just step in. It makes it a lot easier and less pressure than just having one pitcher."
Honomichl looks for Johnson to shine in her final year of high school softball.
"I think this is the year for Courtney to settle down and get over being anxious and nervous in a couple of pitches, not a couple of innings," Honomichl said. "She has worked a lot in the offseason. She is going to be our starting center fielder and she will play some first base for us, too."
Another reason the Bulldogs' pitching staff might have success is because they return senior Annie Hannon as catcher. Although Hannon isn't as vocal as her coach would like, Honomichl is happy to have her back.
"Oh, yeah, it helps," Honomichl said of returning Hannon. "She knows our pitchers and she knows our plays. Of course, Annie Hannon is not one of the most vocal people and a catcher needs to do that. She is doing a much better job. She is helping Bailey Brown understand what catchers have to do, because sometimes catchers get hurt. They are in a vulnerable position."
Since the pitchers are locked into the line up, the BHS softball coaches have been working hard at finding the correct players for the remainder of the line up.
The Bulldogs will be without the use of sophomore Haley Finucane and Zordel for their first two games as they are both in France with other BHS French students.
"We are working people out at different positions just to get through this period of time where we don't have Alex Zordel and Haley Finucane. It's not the world's worst thing. We are trying to figure out who to put where. We haven't even thought about a batting line up."
The changing line up and other unknown reasons have created problems at practice with communication, according to Honomichl.
"One thing we aren't doing very well is communicating," Honomichl said. "Today, when that happened and you were sort of negligent, you had to do push ups. It's a reminder that I shouldn't be standing, doing nothing. Eight people can help the other one. We just need to do that better, especially with some of our seniors who know what we should be doing."
After the game against the Vikings today, the Bulldogs return home for a game against Osawatomie Monday.
"I believe if our team can stick together and stay positive that we can have a very good season," Johnson said.