CLOVERDALE -- Defense will be the name of the game for the Cloverdale High School softball team this season.
Heading into the 2007 campaign, CHS coach Greg Crum is optimistic that his defense will play a major role in the success for the squad.
Crum added the Clovers hope defense will be key, especially if junior pitcher Nicole Mowery isn't ready for the season opener. Crum said Mowery has been ill and out of school. However, he said the hurler could be ready for the season opener.
"I think we'll have a defense to help any pitcher out," Crum said. "I think we'll be stronger because we've got one year of experience."
Still, the possible loss of Mowery is on Crum's mind.
"That is hurting us a little," he said. "You hate to lose someone like Nicole."
The Clovers were 9-14 last season, including 4-8 in the West Central Conference. Crum said the team lost at least four or five games by two or less runs, making the team's defense that much more important this season.
In addition, the Clovers return an abundance of experience as the team lost one player, Emily Puffer, to graduation.
Back for Cloverdale this season are three-year starting senior catcher Hannah Monnett and centerfielder Stephanie Tutterow, in addition to juniors Kristen Schroer, Erica Lotz, Chelsie Haltom, and sophomores Kristin McCammon, Kayla Shepherd and Whitney Bond.
If Mowery -- who has started since she was a freshman -- is not available to start the season, Crum said the Clovers will rely on junior pitcher Jennifer Wiley.
"She's worked hard and she's doing a good job," Crum said. "Obviously, (getting back Mowery) will help us. But we'll still be competitive."
Crum expects to have Monnett serve as catcher again this year with McCammon at third base. He said Shepherd will play at shortstop while Schroer will play second and Lotz will see time at first base. In addition to Tutterow, Bond and Haltom will see action in the outfield.
Even though the Clovers return quite a bit of experience, Crum said the team is still young, with three sophomores in the starting lineup. But he remains confident that the club will be prepared for the start of the season.
"We've just got experience at every position," he said. "That's what you like to have as a coach."
Crum said the Clovers' defense will need to play a major role for the team this season as hitting as been somewhat of a problem in recent seasons.
"Offensively, for the past two to three years, we didn't hit the ball real strong," he said. "We've worked real hard on hitting. It seems like something that always comes around later in the year for us. I would say things look better (thisyear)."
Crum said he hopes to have his entire team hit near .250 this season after a season when the Clovers hit less than .230 as a team.
Crum also plans on utilizing the team's speed this season.
"Anytime you can run, that puts pressure on defenses," Crum said. He said the Clovers will generate offense by manufacturing runs as well as swinging away.
He added he believes the 2007 Clovers will have more success than in recent seasons, particularly because of successful seasons in volleyball and basketball.
"These girls have had success in other sports. I think that carries over," Crum said. "What you see is a little more confidence."
However, Crum realizes teams will be preparing for the Clovers more so because of that success. However, he said the team has the ability to overcome that obstacle.
"Young kids are still going to make mistakes," Crum said. "But what I've found with this group is that they are very coachable."
The Clovers open the regular seaso April 2 at home against South Putnam.