Bonner softball expects to be better in ‘04
There are two things Nancy Yankovich knows about her Bonner Springs softball team this season.
The first, is that she has six players with varsity experience that she can count on to deliver day in and day out. The second is that she has six or seven more players to choose from to find the final pieces of the puzzle.
Although Yankovich is excited to have a little depth and young talent, she's hoping a few players in that second group will emerge as everyday players.
"I'd rather have one consistent starting lineup," Yankovich said. "It's hard enough being young, we don't need the lineup to be changing every day."
Part of the reason it might is because the Bravettes lost the entire left side of their ballclub. Third baseman Andrea Dill, shortstop Holly Miller and left fielder Kallie Moore were all fixtures in the Bravettes' program during their careers at BSHS.
Yankovich anticipates replacing them with a freshman and two sophomores, a task she's nervous about only because of the inexperience.
"The girls we have to plug in have talent," Yankovich said. "Even though they're young, they can play."
And fortunately, they won't be counted on too heavily.
That, Yankovich will reserve for her seniors.
Catcher Corie Crouch, ace pitcher Kristy Holt and center fielder Ashley Pardew are the three Bravette seniors, who Yankovich will push, pester and even pick on this year to get what she's looking for from her team.
The trio will be expected to lead on the field, off the field and by example in both.
"I've put a lot of pressure on those three," Yankovich said. "I'm probably harder on them than I am on the rest of the girls, but I hope that's a good thing. They don't have to like it all the time, but I need some leaders."
All three fall nicely into that category.
Holt has been a fixture on the mound for the Bravettes during her career. For much of that time she has been dominant. But Yankovich said her ace starter came into the season in worse shape than she did a year ago, and she's going to push her to get in shape quickly.
"We need Kristy," Yankovich said. "There's no doubt about that. And there's no question that she will be in great shape. But until then she's going to have to use every bit of her energy to pitch like she did last year. We can't have her getting tired."
Holt utilizes great control and confidence to mow through her opponents on the mound, and Yankovich is counting on Holt's bat to bolster the Bravettes' offense a little, as well.
Offense is the one area where Yankovich is concerned. With six girls back who know how to play softball, defense should come easily. But finding production at the plate is an area she will emphasize in the early going.
"What I really need is a power hitter, someone who can smack the ball," Yankovich said.
Enter Corie Crouch.
Crouch, a two-year starter behind the dish and life-long softball player, was one of the Bravettes' more productive offensive players last season. She was in the top 3 or 4 in most offensive categories and Yankovich said she expects her senior catcher to exceed last year's output.
Pardew also provided an offensive lift for the Bravettes last season, but it came in a much different way. Using her great eye and fast legs, the Bravettes' leadoff hitter almost always found a way to get on base and make things happen.
This year the pressure will be on Pardew to do the same, but Yankovich is confident that the senior will be up for the challenge.
"She did a really nice job in the leadoff spot for us last year," Yankovich said. "Her offense is probably her biggest asset. Ashley can be a sparkplug when she wants to be."
Pardew will also be one of the leaders on defense. From her center field position, Yankovich has told Pardew to take charge and control the outfield.
"The outfielders are our last resort," Yankovich said. "If the ball gets by them, big innings happen. So I've challenged Ashley to take charge out there. We need her to cover as much ground as she possibly can."
That will be a little easier as Pardew shades to her left, because of the presence of junior Roxanne Evans.
Evans has started in the Bravettes' outfield since her freshman year, and along with Pardew, she will provide consistency in the outfield.
Yankovich is hoping Evans will take her offensive game to another level.
"I want Roxanne to be the sleeper and come in and wake everyone up," Yankovich said. "I want people to say, 'Ooh, where did she come from."
She hopes the same will be said of Candice Craven.
Craven was primarily the Bravettes' No. 2 pitcher last season, a role she will inherit again, however this year they will need her bat in the lineup on offense, as well.
That leaves junior Chase Crouch as the only remaining Bravettes contributor from last season.
Crouch is a solid leader with good fundamentals at every position and a fiery style.
Last year she spent time at second base, but this year Yankovich anticipates her playing first base or the outfield.
"Chase could play wherever we need her," Yankovich said. "She's a great leader and a great communicator."
She will also be counted on heavily at the plate.
After those six, the door is wide open.
Regardless of who plays where, Yankovich is sure that this group will work hard every day, and that will lead to a few more wins than last sesaon.
"We definitely have all the components," Yankovich said. "Getting them to work together at theright times will be the trick. But I expect us to be better. We want to come out and spoil some teams' fun."