Fresh off its first berth in the state tournament, Lubbock Christian is starting anew.
Gone is coach Kelly Robinson, who had to step aside because of an increased workload within the school, and in is longtime assistant Rick Furr.
While he enters his rookie campaign, so to speak, so will a handful of Lady Eagles.
LCU, which advanced to the TAPPS Class 3A state tournament last season, will rely heavily on a crop of younger players to try to duplicate another run to the state tournament.
Furr knows there are bound to be some growing pains with the loss of seven seniors.
“With that being said about the lack of experience,” Furr said, “it’s not lack about the physical talent.”
Like all coaches across the South Plains, Furr hopes his newcomers can rise to the challenge in the early weeks of the season. Area schools started their season about two weeks ago, and many are embarking on their second tournament of the season this weekend.
Furr and his Lady Eagles host the Lady Eagle Class starting today.
He hopes senior catcher Madeleine Hammond can help bring the young players, especially a trio of underclassmen hurlers: Sophomore Shaylin Stephenson and freshmen Renni Scarborough and Lindsay Brewer.
Outfielder Jenny Rigney should also make the transition go by smoothly, and Furr credits his predecessor in getting the upperclassmen ready.
“As far as I’m concerned it will be tough shoes to fill,” Furr said, “but we anticipate we will continue the tradition.”
Stan Countryman wants 2013 to be the year the Lady Matadors get over the hump.
Having missed the playoffs the past two seasons in by a game, Countryman is investing in his five seniors to make a run into the playoffs and beyond in Class 3A. The Lady Mats lost only two letter winners from last year’s team.
“That group of seniors has shone a lot of leadership,” Countryman said, “and hopefully will help put ourselves in a position to make the playoffs and hopefully a good playoff run.”
Countryman expects hitting at the top of the order to maintain its consistency, but he needs more production out of the bottom of the lineup.
Thankfully, the Estacado skipper can rely on the arm of Gabby Gloria in the early stages of this season as the bats work themselves out.
Gloria, a senior right-hander, was first-team All-City during her junior campaign, compiling 284 strikeouts and a 2.78 ERA to go along with an 18-10 record.
Through her first six games this season, Gloria already has fanned 52 batters.
“She’s probably the best pitcher I’ve ever got to work with,” said Countryman, who is in his third year with Estacado after coaching at Plainview and Frenship previously. “She has leadership on the mound and the kids have a lot of confidence in her. Her capability to keep us in the ball game and allows us to have a chance to win basically every game.”
Countryman also pointed to third baseman Jessica Martinez as a important cog in the Estacado lineup.
Like Estacado, the Frenship Tigers are going to rely heavily on a returning pitcher during the early stages of the season.
Rubi Moreno, who was sidelined during the offseason with a foot injury, helped the Tigers to a 6-1 record in their first six games. Frenship’s only loss has been to perennial South Plains power Coronado.
“She’s done really well,” Frenship coach Robby Dickenson said. “She was off for about four months because she had foot surgery, and she’s just now getting back into it. We’re really happy with her progress.”
The Tigers replaced much of the core that helped them advance to the Region I-4A semifinals.
However, Dickenson said he was especially pleased with the progress of K’Leigh Arrendondo (second base), Grace Andrews (third base) and Haley Thomack (left field).
He said the Tigers are doing well offensively, but defense is going to one of the question marks in the early going this season. He moved Miley McKee to catcher and Cydney Turner to first base, switching the two.
Returners Megan Fischer and Presley James have also helped the team move on from last year.
“We’re hitting the ball really well,” Dickenson said. “So as long as we continue to hit the ball (we’ll be OK). We’re just going to have to be stronger defensively.”
Brian Cronk is excited about the nucleus of the team he inherited from former coach Steve Mims.
But he knows it’s going to take some time to implement his style of play.
Cronk takes over the reins of Monterey after spending the past six years at Canyon. At 3-3 through the first six games of the season the Lady Plainsmen are showing signs of taking to Cronk’s new system.
“I like the short game,” Cronk said. “You gut to be able to put pressure on the defense from the offensive side — aggressive baserunning and take advantage of defensive mistakes.”
He said there is a definite learning curve, and his team has played Midland Lee twice and Coronado, teams he says play aggressive ball very well.
“We’ve been on both ends of the spectrum as far as having some success and having some struggles,” Cronk said. “I guess the best thing about it right now is we’re sitting six games in, and I think we’re moving in the right direction. The kids show up to work, and they’re beginning to understand what I’m wanting them to do.
Cronk said catcher Claudia Hernandez has stepped up as a leader for the Lady Plainsmen, one of three returning starters.
He said Hernandez is one of the best blocking catchers he has ever sene. He also spoke highly of second baseman Melissa Caskey. He said solid pitching from Ashley Preston, Alysia Rivas and Alexis Vines will also help the cause as District 4-4A play rolls around in a month.
However, ultimately it boils down to the entire team clicking.
“We’re not the type of team that can rely on one kid to get everything, either offensively or defensively.
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