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HEBRON ESTATES – The past few softball seasons have not gone well for the North Bullitt Lady Eagles.
The once proud program hit rock bottom last spring, winning just three games. After that season, head coach Eric Lambert stepped down and he was replaced last fall by Mike Nally.
Nally has been involved with softball in the area since 1995 and during one stretch was an assistant coach at North Bullitt. The past four seasons he was working as the assistant coach at Indiana University Southeast and had watched North Bullitt the past few seasons as he recruited and signed Lady Eagle standout Darian Davenport.
Following his fourth season at IUS, Nally stepped aside to spend more time with his seven grandchildren, something that the travel involved with college softball had limited him from doing. A few months later, Nally got a phone call from a North Bullitt parent about the opening. With Bullitt County dropping some requirements for non-teachers to coach, Nally signed on when offered the job.
The first job that Nally undertook was trying to change the culture in a program that had gone 3-24 in 2012.
“It was environmental changes as much as anything,” Nally said a few hours before the team opened the season last Wednesday against Bullitt East. “I just want them to have respect for themselves and the program and the school, that kind of stuff.
“One big thing I preach is staying calm and we’ll get through it together,” the new coach added.”
Nally has a former IUS player, Nicole Mills, as his assistant coach. This will be the first season as a coach for the former Fairdale player. The team also has a volunteer assistant coach in Terrance Bruner and Kayla Duke is working as a pitching coach.
“We have a few young, talented player in the program now,” Nally pointed out. “The future is bright.
“The seniors have been through a lot,” the coach added. “They have had a lot of different situations. I want to give them a positive situation when they graduate.”
There are 27 players in the Lady Eagle program this spring and five of those are seniors. North Bullitt will play a complete junior-varsity schedule this year but there is not a freshman program at this point.
The good news for the Lady Eagles is that realignment has taken defending Sixth Region champion Bullitt East out of the district. Now, the green and gold will battle against Bullitt Central as well as Southern and Moore for early post-season honors.
“I think we can be competitive with those teams,” Nally said. “We scrimmaged Presentation and that went well. We also scrimmaged Pleasure Ridge Park. That didn’t go as well, but it wasn’t a killing either.”
At this point, the Lady Eagles did not a full-time starting pitcher. Instead, Nally is looking at rotating three players into the circle. That group includes junior Elise Mills, sophomore Shelby Crenshaw and freshman Devyn Tompkins. Sophomore Taylor Hayes could also do some pitching.
“All four have done well with the time we have spent with them,” Nally said.
Behind the plate, senior Brooke Adams will do the catching and she will be backed up by junior Bri Johnson.
The Lady Eagles do return senior Caitlin Crowder at first base after she missed last season with a shoulder injury. The senior had a standout volleyball season and is healthy now for softball.
Joining Crowder on the right side of the infield will be senior Devan Benz.
At shortstop, the rotation will depend at times on who is pitching. Taylor Mills, a junior will get playing time, but Crenshaw could see playing time at the spot if she is not pitching.
At third base, senior Brittany Davis will get the first look and she will be backed up by eighth-grader Lilly Curtsinger. Adams could also see time at the hot corner if not behind the plate and Johnson could also play the spot.
In the outfield, Nally has moved sophomore Breanne Sherrard from centerfield to leftfield and inserted senior Carly Benz into center. The right field spot will be manned by Leanna Hundley, a junior.
Other candidates to rotate into the outfield spots include junior Rachel Lucas along with Taylor Hayes and Taylor Mills.
“Generally, the system I run is the same we had at IUS,” Nally said. “We want everybody to play. They won’t get better if they don’t play. In the first two scrimmages we have played 18 people.”
North Bullitt was not scheduled to play at home until after spring break, but some shuffling of the schedule last week due to the bad weather, saw Bullitt East playing at North Bullitt on Wednesday. The team is not scheduled to play at home again until April 11 against North Oldham.