Archive for Thursday, June 12, 2008

The eephus pitch

June 12, 2008

The first sporting event I covered in De Soto was the final football game of the year, a win over a young Spring Hill team.

During the winter, my predecessor covered De Soto athletics. So this spring was the first season I covered all athletics for The Explorer, but I was around enough in the winter to get a good feel for the state of athletics at De Soto High.

It seemed to me like it was a young year for most teams, and on the whole it seems as if all programs are in a state of flux. However, it should be an increasingly successful state in the next few years.

Athletic success at all levels starts at the top, and I see no reason for worry about any program that I saw play.

The basketball team was an incredibly young team. It had one senior role player and several freshmen and sophomores that were thrown in the fire and forced to contribute major minutes and key stat lines.

Kelsey Fisher, Tami Crow, Shelbi Petty and Katie Williams form a core of young talent that should continue to get better over the next two years. Petty was a freshman this year, often manning the point, while the rest were sophomores.

The wrestling team is another team that was chock-full of underclassmen. Cameron Magdaleno and Demitiris Hall should be exciting to watch in the coming years, and others are sure to emerge as coach Shannon Sawner moves into his second year at the helm. He even went down to the state tournament last year to get the feel of things in anticipation of developing some state qualifiers next year.

Equally as young as both of these teams was the softball team, one of the most enjoyable teams to follow that I came across. Early in the season, it seemed there was the most apprehension of any of the teams when it came to expectations.

In 2007, the team won seven games while having seven seniors. Many people seemed worried about what success the team could have with one senior. Coach Melissa Wible told me some parents wondered how they were going to win a single game.

But the team kept playing, kept improving and wound up matching the win total from the previous year. Freshmen like Hayley Brown and Hannah Jokisch emerged alongside sophomores like Katie Williams, Jordin Burford and Megan Sterling.

Sterling, Williams and Brown went first, second and third leading the team in hitting, and Williams amassed 80 strikeouts this season while walking six. That's amazing precision and dominance. You have to have great control, and work ahead most of the time. I'd equate that stat to a hunter who shoots 10 deer and hits the vitals on all but one of them. Now imagine that hunter is a sophomore in high school.

She'll be the ace of the staff next year, and all five players will have increased expectations a year from now.

The Wildcat baseball reeled off nine wins in 10 games in the season, sort of similar to how things went in softball, and that sort of improvement is what every coach aims for at the beginning of the year.

I had a coach who used to say we needed to get 1 percent better every single day. Although that's a bit unreasonable and can't usually be reflected, these teams - from start to finish - showed what I feel is above average improvement.

As young as De Soto teams were this year on the whole, there is reason to believe, given the bits of success and improvement they've shown, the coaches and administrative backing is such that something special could happen with De Soto athletics in the near future.


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