Coaches strategize winning tactics for next year
Although Tonganoxie's baseball team and softball team had to overcome a lack of experience this year, coaches say that actually has helped strengthen their clubs.
The baseball team lost two of its three seniors early on to injuries. Both pitchers injured their pitching arms. Losing Mark Walters and Ryan Lowe before the season began left lone senior Kyle Rodell to lead the team.
But because of the early loss of his top two pitchers, Coach John Lee said, the team would be stronger from the mound next year.
Several players, including Kelly Woelk, Matt Alexander and David Saultz, saw much more time at pitcher than they would have had they ridden the pine while watching the two healthy seniors pitch most innings.
Brad Reischman, Scott Jewell, Chuck Riddle and Nick Volk also pitched some innings for the Chieftains. They will come to the mound next year with more experience than underclassmen typically get.
Although the team finished with a sub-par record, the team did rally to win four of six late in the season.
The team finished 6-16.
It's called the school of hard knocks, and Lee said the pains the team experience losing nine of its first 10 games would be rewarded next year.
And he said the experience players would gain playing summer ball would help reinforce those skill areas he and Coach Andy Gilner had worked on during the season.
Lee said he encouraged his players to play for one of Tonganoxie's two American Legion teams.
"There's quality coaches on both those teams," Lee said. "With the help of those coaches, I know they'll continue to improve."
Like the baseball team, the softball team began its year woefully short on experience.
In fact, the team began its season with Kristin Korb as its only senior. And, like the baseball team, it had few proven prospects to put on the mound.
But after losing its first three games, the team solidified behind the arms of Katie Jeannin and Laura Samuels.
And behind a stingy defense that gave up fewer than two runs and one error per game after that, the team won13 of its final 17 games.
Jeannin was the team's primary pitcher, logging 118 innings over 18 games. She struck out 89 and walked only nine batters. She finished with an 11-7 record and a 1.65 ERA.
Samuels was ready whenever she was called upon, winning both her games with a 1.89 ERA.
The team won nearly twice as many games as it lost, but it only out-scored its opponents 89-52. That's a margin of fewer than two runs per game, which shows that the Chieftains won many close games because of their defense.
That's a good starting place, Coach Mark Mall said.
"Overall, I was definitely satisfied with the season," he said. "Batting is the one thing we need to improve by next year."
The team has a good offensive core. Six girls all of whom should be back next season led the team in at least one different offensive statistical category. Everybody else on the team finished close behind.
Heather Beach led the team in hits at 17, times on base at 27 and runs scored at 12.
Jeannin and Michelle McWilliams tied for the lead in stolen bases, each stealing three. Sarah Subelka led the team in doubles with three and she took nine walks for the team. Andrea Korb led the team in on-base percentage at .455, runs batted in at 12 and triples with two. She hit the team's one season homerun. Laura Korb had the highest batting average on the team at .304.
"We only had one girl batting over .300 for the year, so we can improve on that, and definitely need to improve on that, by next year," Mall said.