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HEBRON ESTATES - Not a lot of sports fans would think of Rick Pitino and North Bullitt softball coach Eric Lambert in the same situation, but there is a link between the two in 2011.
Both are looking for good things this season with better years on the horizon.
That is pretty much to say that the Lady Eagle softball program is in a major rebuilding mode this season.
“Absolutely,” Lambert said as he sat in his classroom last week. “One of the things I’ve talked about with the girls is what Pitino and how he talks about a bridge year. That is how we’ll approach this season. We’ll ring in a new era of softball at North Bullitt.”
The old era of Lady Eagle softball wasn’t bad. The green and gold went 13-11 last season, losing to Bullitt East in the district final and then falling to eventual Sixth Region champion Pleasure Ridge Park 7-4 in the first round of the regional.
Most of that squad graduated and shortstop/pitcher Erin Cox transferred to Fern Creek. That has left the Lady Eagles with no seniors and only three juniors on the roster. Lambert does have three returning starters to work with.
“We still have the same goals,” Lambert noted. “I see no reason to lower them because we are short on experience right now. We are young, but a large group of the girls have been in the program for three and four years.”
North Bullitt lost its top two pitchers from a year ago, but does return freshman Elise Mills who pitched a handful of varsity contests. She will be joined in the rotation by eighth-grader Shelby Crenshaw.
“Right now I see it being 50-50,” Lambert said of who starts. “It’s not a situation of every other day or one pitching half a game. We’ll just go and see if anyone steps up.”
The biggest change in the Lady Eagles will come behind the plate as there will no longer be a Bre Kuffner to handle those duties. Kuffner started almost every game for the past six years for the green and gold. The North Bullitt coaches will call the pitches from the dug-out for the first time since before Kuffner arrived.
Now, the catcher will be sophomore Brooke Adams who was the junior-varsity catcher last season. She will be backed-up by sophomore Tori Andres or freshman Brianna Johnson.
One of the most experienced of the Lady Eagles is junior Darian Davenport and she will start at either of the two infield corner positions. Eighth-grader Jordan Vorbrink, who started last year as a left-handed second baseman, could fill-in at first base while sophomore Devan Benz could be the third baseman.
Up the middle, the North Bullitt defense will have junior Taylor Humphrey at second base and she will be backed up by sophomore Tiffany Calfee and freshman Leeanna Hundley. At shortstop, Lambert can go with either sophomore Caitlin Crowder or Benz.
In the outfield, the Lady Eagles are looking to junior Megan Allen to play in right field with eighth-grader Breanna Sherrard returning to her spot in centerfield. Both Vorbrink and freshman Carly Benz could play in right field while sophomores Destiny Ashmore and Lauren Pierce will also get a look in the outfield.
“Realistically, we’re looking at 13 to 15 kids who will get a look at the varsity level,” Lambert said. “If we find a rotation that works, that’s the way we want it.
“We’ll use the regular season to find out the rotation,” the coach added. “I’m looking forward to the scrimmages to see what we have to work on.”
Another big change this season for the Lady Eagles is a beefed up schedule. North Bullitt will play some of the top teams in the area including Pleasure Ridge Park, Ballard, Assumption as well as defending state runner-up Mercy on May 11.
The Lady Eagles do not play at home until next Thursday against Male.