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Healthy pitching, timely hitting keys to Woodridge softball season

4/3/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Sean Patrick

PENINSULA — The Woodridge High School softball team has eight returning players — including seven starters — this season, said head coach Dan Schneider.

“We will have only two new starters this year,” he said. “Taylor Goodyear didn’t start, but she played some last year. Taylor will be playing the outfield, most likely in left or right field. And we’ll have a freshman, Mackenzie Mercer, who will be in the starting nine. I think with her speed and her softball abilities, she will be able to help us either at second base or in the outfield.”

Last year, Woodridge finished 6-22 overall and 2-12 in the Portage Trail Conference’s County Division, but a big plus for the team this year, Schneider said, is that his No. 1 pitcher is expected to be back in top form this year.

“Samantha Schneider won’t be coming off of major arm surgery,” he said. “In December [of 2012], she had major surgery on her pitching arm, and they cut her from her wrist to her elbow. She had compression syndrome in her right arm, and she didn’t get to pitch at all until the second week of practice last season.”

According to Schneider, Woodridge’s top pitcher-catcher combo will be a key asset for the squad in 2014.

“With Sam being healthy, my top catcher is going to be Kylie Gregory, who is also my alternate pitcher — she’s my No. 2 pitcher,” he said. “Kylie caught for Sam all of last year, and I think with Sam’s arm being better and Kylie improved behind the plate, I think it’s just going to make the battery that much stronger.”

Schneider said his team also will benefit from another year of the team’s infield playing together.

“We should be a lot more solid defensively,” he said. “Right now, we have junior Kristen Donze returning at first. We have an injury right now to Shayla Williams, who has an injured shoulder. We’re hoping we won’t lose her too much, and there’s a possibility she will be playing first and we would move Kristen to the outfield. But that has yet to be completely determined. Senior Mikayla Johns is penciled in to be our starting centerfielder or it will be Mackenzie Mercer. More than likely, it will shake out that one will start in center and the other will start at second. At shortstop, we will have junior Hailey Scupholm, and at third will be senior Samantha Oesterle. Things should be pretty stable in the infield once we get the first three or four games under our belt.”

Woodridge will start league play at home April 7 at 4:15 p.m. against Southeast High School, and Schneider said double digit wins are the No. 1 goal.

“You know, you take things a step at a time, but I think it would be nice to double the amount of wins we had last year,” he said. “We’ll take double-digit wins to start, and it can only lead to good things if we can get those wins in the league. I think we can be pretty strong in the league.”

The key to Woodridge’s season, Schneider said, will be the ability to score runs.

“We’ve all talked about it, and we’ve all worked on upping our team batting average,” he said. “Last year, we only had two kids bat over .300, and our goal is to have more kids do that this year. We are looking to become more efficient through the hitting order. In order to be successful, we simply have to score more runs.”

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