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SHEPHERDSVILLE - The incredible shrinking softball team has high hopes for 2011.
The Bullitt Central Lady Cougars went 15-20 a year ago without a senior on the roster and reached the district semi-finals before losing 6-5 to eventual Sixth Region runner-up Bullitt East.
However, between June and Feb. 15, a handful of players that could have helped the team fell to the wayside. When veteran head coach Buddy Gallemore handed out a roster last week, there were 11 names and only one senior. A few moments later, sophomore Katie Hutchison reported to Gallemore’s office with the news that she had suffered a torn ACL and MCL the previous day at the team’s scrimmage with John Hardin.
That will leave the Cougars entering the season with 10 varsity players.
“I kind of made a push last summer and fall to get them to play more together,” Gallemore explained. “Some of the girls had other priorities. That’s nothing against them. When you grow up, you have other priorities. We got the girls who wanted to make the full commitment to the team.”
While the roster has dwindled, the expectations have not. The Lady Cougars still expect to be one of the top teams in the 24th District and the Sixth Region.
The first sign of the team’s ability came on Monday when they opened the season with a 4-0 road win at Manual.
“I feel very confident with the team we have,” Gallemore said. “All of the girls have put in a lot of time and work. The benefits are starting to pay off.
“The core group of the team is still there,” the coach added. “They want to win for each other and with each other. I think we can be competitive with a lot of teams.”
Bullitt Central will have plenty of experience in the circle as junior Seaera Minyard returns with a strong right arm.
“She knows what to do in all situations,” Gallemore noted. “The girls rely on her and she relies on them. She knows she can rely on the defense. It starts with her, but it doesn’t end with her.”
Minyard pitched most of the innings for the maroon and gray last season, but she could be more effective this season pitching fewer innings. That is because freshman Hailey Szpila has developed enough to get some of the starts.
Behind the plate, the lady Cougars return two players who saw duty last season. Eighth-grader Natalie Campbell started the season as the catcher and freshman Haley Dukes ended the campaign there.
“We’re still trying to figure out that spot,” Gallemore said. “With two different pitchers we might have a different catcher with a different pitcher. They are both very capable.
At first base, Szpila will man the spot when she is not pitching while second base will go to the team’s only senior, Rachel Basil. Basil could play at first base some and junior Tori Boston could play at second.
On the left side of the infield, junior Whitney Miller returns and she will be backed up by sophomore Darian Deaver. Hutchison was going to start at third base, but that job now goes to sophomore Dana Johnson, the only player on this year’s roster who was not part of the varsity a year ago. Johnson was the third baseman for the JV and freshman team a year ago.
In the outfield, Deaver moves into the centerfield slot and she will have junior Sarah Spurling next to her in left field. The right fielder will be the catcher who is not catching that day - either Campbell or Dukes. Boston could also play the outfield.
Gallemore is not kidding when he says, “everybody will get some playing time.”
(The entire Bullitt Central program only has three other girls. Gallemore did say that there will be a limited junior-varsity slate as well as some freshman games that will include the Bernheim Middle School softball team joining the three girls not on the varsity.)
With just the one senior, Gallemore is pushing his juniors into leadership roles. Miller and Minyard will join Basil as the team captains.
“We are still trying to teach leadership, but it is coming,” the coach said. “They had a role in the team goals. They will be the role models we need to have.”
Gallemore said the team has developed three goals - a winning record, winning a regular season tournament and capturing the first district championship since 2005.
Bullitt Central opened the season on the road but they will play at home on Thursday against Jeffersontown. On Friday, the team will head to Brandenburg to compete in the Meade County TSOA Tournament.