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Woodridge softball team relying on young players to lead season

3/14/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

PENINSULA — The Woodridge High School softball team will be looking for some young players to step up this season.

Head coach Dan Schneider said last year’s team finished with its best record ever at 27-3 and made it to the regional semifinals. However, Woodridge lost four key seniors from that team, the coach said.

This year, Schneider noted, there are no seniors on the roster. He said the team will rely on a trio of returning lettermen for leadership.

Those three returnees (with quotes on each by Schneider) are:

  • Sophomore Samantha Schneider: “She played first base last year and will probably do the majority of the pitching for us this year. As a freshman last year, she hit .490 for the season. Even though she’s a sophomore, she has as much or more experience as anyone on the team. She’s probably been playing since she was 5 years old.”
  • Junior Samantha Oesterle: “We’re looking to move her from right field to second base. She’s a solid, hard-nosed athlete. She works really hard and she’s pretty determined. She did a good job for us last season on a pretty experienced team.”
  • Junior Mikayla Johns: “She’ll probably play in the outfield for us, most likely in centerfield. She was our 10th player last year. She would run bases and be a spot fill in. She’s ready to step up and take on the challenges of being a starter.”

Also returning from last year’s squad are sophomore first baseman Kristen Donze, junior outfielder Cierra Simmons and sophomore utility player Shawna Waters.

“Kristen came along with us at the end of last year, and I’ve seen improvement in her defense and her hitting over the last couple weeks. I think she’ll continue to get better,” the coach said. “Cierra is just a hard worker. If need be, we could put her in the infield, but I think we’re going to look for her to help us in the outfield. And Shawna is very upbeat. She’s willing to play any position for us.”

Another key player this season, Schneider said, is sophomore Hailey Scupholm, who transferred to Woodridge from Our Lady of the Elms High School.

“She has a lot of travel ball experience,” the coach said. “She’s managed to fit right in, and she’s kind of helping to lead the way a little bit for us. We’re looking at her to play shortstop. She’s one of our better athletes.”

According to Schneider, this year’s team is “showing a lot of potential” in the preseason, especially for such a young team.

“We’re a small squad — we have 12 total players — but we have players who are willing to work hard and to listen,” he said. “Most of our players have some softball experience, so we’re not teaching them how to throw and catch. We’re just trying to refine what they’ve been taught already.”

The coach said his team has already shown improvement in the relatively short time they have been practicing together.

“The more they get to know each other, the more they’re starting to gel as a team,” he stated. “With all of the new players — you figure that half of them weren’t here before — everyone needs to get to know everybody. But they’re getting a good grasp on things.”

Woodridge is scheduled to begin its season April 4, when the team will host Springfield High School at 4:15 p.m.

Schneider, who is in his 15th year as the team’s head coach, said he’s looking forward to getting another season under way.

“After all the people we’ve lost, I think we’re all going in a little nervous, but we’re all upbeat and looking forward to what we have coming,” he said. “Out goal right off the bat is to win 50 percent of our games. For a young team, if we can win half of our games, then I think anything’s possible.”

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