Talented, youthful Eagles ready for '09 season

Thursday, March 26, 2009

With a young team and new coach, the 2009 season should yield some interesting results for the Eagles' softball team.

Chris Jones takes over as head coach of the South Putnam squad this spring and it's not his first time coaching softball. He was assistant coach at Lewis Cass High School, a program that won two state championships in three years, a few years ago and he is hoping to bring some of that championship coaching to South Putnam.

Although the Eagles won the sectional and posted a 22-4 record last season, they are only returning one senior to this year's squad in Oceaia Boetjer.

"We got 19 girls this year with one senior, seven juniors, four sophomores and seven freshmen," Jones said. "We have a few girls back from last year's team and it's nice to have some of that experience, but I would like to think that we are fairly young with only one senior and a bunch of underclassmen."

Having a lot of underclassmen on his team this year might actually be a blessing in disguise for Jones.

"I look for good things from them this year," Jones said. "With this year being my first year with them its going to be interesting with me getting used to what they can do and what I want to do.

"It's just going to be a lot of adjusting for everyone," Jones said. "The one thing that I found out about South Putnam is that softball is a very serious thing here. These girls have been playing this sport for a while and each coach has different ways of coaching, but at least the girls know to play the game well.

"It's just going to be the minor situations where I want to place players for certain situations that everyone will have to get used to," Jones added.

With Boetjer being the lone senior, and a first year head coach some might expect that Boetjer would have a plate full of responsibilities this season, but that's not that case.

"Oceaia has been good in practice with her leadership, being vocal and I expect the juniors to do the same thing," Jones said. "We can't put the whole thing on Oceaia's shoulders. She may be the one senior, but it's a team effort.

"So I expect different people to lead in different roles. We have to have an infield and outfield leader and our catcher needs to be a leader," Jones said. "So I look for leadership from a lot of different places and they are learning that."

There is one thing that Jones and the Eagles do have an abundance of this season, the amount of pitchers on the squad.

South Putnam returns two veterans to the team in Boetjer and Sam Tomasino and has one added treat -- freshman Brooke Boetjer. Even though Brooke is a freshman this year, she is no rookie. She has been pitching for the Indiana Shockwaves traveling team for the past few years, where she amassed a 451-33 record.

"I'm excited for Brooke, for what she can bring to this team this year," Jones said. "She most likely will be doing some varsity pitching this season."

Jones said that usually when you come to a new team the challenge is finding the pitching talent within the team, but that wasn't the case at South Putnam.

"It's kind of funny," Jones said. "The problem here isn't finding the talent; it's finding time for everyone to pitch.

"Usually in softball you go with one pitcher, but we have some options this year if all the girls stay healthy and that's rare; nice but rare," Jones said.

All in all, Jones said it has been an easy transition for everyone.

"These girls are great," Jones said. "They are quick learners and you can't ask for more than that.

"Right now we have a pretty good nucleus; we just need to gel together under my new system," Jones said.

The Eagles open their 2009 season on April 6 when they travel to Cloverdale for a West Central Conference showdown starting at 5 p.m.