North Putnam has big dreams, will lean on battery chemistry

Thursday, March 28, 2013
Cayla Kientz, a senior in 2013, lays down a bunt during a game last season. (Banner Graphic Archive/CAINE GARDNER)

ROACHDALE -- Sophomore Sabrina Surber made her presence known last season, both as a pitcher and at the plate.

She finished her phenomenal freshman year with a .328 average and was a member of the all-conference and all-county teams. Unfortunately, she was overshadowed by Putnam County's best player and pitcher, South Putnam's Brooke Boetjer.

Boetjer was last year's Miss Softball for the state. While Surber isn't ready for that just yet, she will be counted on to make a leap and help deliver the North Putnam softball team a successful year.

"She's got a few more pitches this year," North Putnam coach Benny Ault said. "She's a little bit older, a little bit stronger. Her body is maturing. She's looking really good in practice. She really hit the weights hard this off-season."

Surber spent a lot of that time with her catcher, North Putnam junior Bailey Ault.

The pair is among the top pitcher-catcher combos returning in the county, and their chemistry will be key for the Cougars.

"They have a very good connection, which I think is important for two returning all-conference players," Ault said. "Those two, just watching as a coach, knowing what they do together and having that connection between pitcher and catcher, is very important. I feel confident in what they're going to do."

The team is far more than just two underclassmen, and Ault said he will count on his three seniors and three juniors to help lead the team.

"I don't have just one leader to this team," Ault said. "I tell every girl on that team, from freshmen to senior, 'You're all leaders.' I don't believe in having just one girl. 'If you see a girl doing something wrong, pick her up. If you see a girl out doing something, stop her.'

"This is a team. This is not an individual sport, so as a team, we're all leaders."

North Putnam has ambitious goals this year, particularly for a team the finished just 4-16 in 2012.

"I think our No. 1 goal, if we take it step-by-step, is to win the county," Ault said. "I think we have a very good chance of winning county. The next step is to try to win conference. Cascade and South Put are still pretty good."

To do all that, Ault said, the team will rely on defense first, and the offense, as it develops, will be a work in progress.

"Our strength is always our defense, for the most part," Ault said. "If we play our game, if we play good defense and we can score three or four runs a game, we're going to win a lot of games. Because the defense is going to be pretty stout."

The final goal, the most ambitious of all, awaits the team in late May. It may take more than just defense, pitching and timely hits to get there.

"We're trying to build this year for next year and take it a step at a time," Ault said. "I think our next goal is to go in and see how we do in sectionals."

Big aspirations for such an unheralded team.

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