By CAINE GARDNER
Under the tutelage of first year head coach Robin Knapp, the GHS softball team will look to continue its recent surge. After a 5-19 2007 season, Greencastle rebounded last season and put together a 14-9 performance.
With Knapp at the helm, the Tiger Cubs are hoping for a prosperous 2009 campaign.
As with a lot of other teams, GHS is comprised of young talent. The Tiger Cubs have two seniors, two juniors, two sophomores and four freshmen. The team has attacked the practice field and is ready for battle.
"They've already come in with a lot of effort," Knapp said. "A good number of them have shown up to open gym, so we were able to get some reps in before practices started. We've (coaches) thrown a lot at them and they've really rolled with it.
"They're very enthusiastic about this year and we're excited about that. They have set a higher standard and are working to achieve a lot of stuff this year," she added.
Knapp will not only be looking to her seniors for leadership. Up and down the lineup, she believes Greencastle has a group of strong players with multiple threats, with two of those being experience and leadership ability.
"We have two seniors this year. We're looking for a lot of leadership, a lot of vocal leadership, because they are experienced, so we're looking for them to use that asset," Knapp commented. "Also, we have two juniors and two sophomores and again all with extreme experience and leadership skills. Both of our sophomores and a senior will be our pitching staff this year. It's nice to have that youth that we are able to build up in the program. There will be four freshmen on the varsity, who again have great talent."
Greencastle will have three hurlers on the mound this season. Senior Morgan Hubble and sophomores Mallory Miller and Kayla Downing will comprise the pitching rotation.
It's nice for any team so early into the season to have multiple strengths. Knapp notes that the team has many positives, but more than anything, it's their sense of unity that is one of their major assets.
"There's a lot of them," Knapp commented. "Right now, I think the team chemistry is off to a great start. I think that's a hard, hard part to achieve in a group of girls, who especially are newcomers. Maybe some are freshmen that haven't been around that varsity game yet and things are running a little different than what they expect. We do have a nice dynamic in the group and that team chemistry is obviously going to help on the field, off the field, in practices, in games, on the bus -- everywhere. That unity has already started to emerge, so that's nice.
"I think a lot of it has to with all of them trying to get that mindset of let's just take what we have, go with it and roll with it and use everybody's strength and help back up everyone's weaknesses. They're doing a nice job with that," she continued.
Knapp commented that the thing she has noticed from last year's squad to this year is their approach to the game. Their ability to stay positive when things take an ugly turn and being there to lift up their teammates is something she believes that will carry her team a long way this season.
"The biggest change from last year to this year is probably their mentality and everything they can control," she said. "Good attitudes, a lot of enthusiasm, a lot of encouragement and just that gamer attitude of 'We're going to dive at all costs, we're going to stop the ball and we're going to do whatever it takes.' We're not going to worry about what we can't control, but we're going to do what we can with what we can control."
For the Tiger Cubs, this season will be one of evolving. With a new coach, some lineup changes and the mentality of being a hard-nosed, gritty defensive monster; Greencastle feels they have something to prove.
"On offense, I think we are extremely talented, very deep in the lineup. We do again have a lot of strength; not only in our upperclassmen, but our freshmen bring a lot of strength to the game," Knapp said. "We're working with trying to be aggressive on the bases and trying to build a lot of instinct. This motto of 'take whatever you can' and they're really rolling with that as well.
"As far as defense goes, there is that mindset of stopping it at all costs. I think we'll be pretty solid on defense, but as long as they play the way they know how to. As long as they're not afraid and they're diving after everything they can and helping to build each other up. We should be pretty solid on both sides," Knapp concluded.
Greencastle opened their season Saturday against Sullivan. The Tiger Cubs lost to the Golden Arrows 7-5. They will be back in action tonight at home against North Putnam at 4:30 p.m.