Forest Park hopeful about softball seasonMarch 27, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
FERDINAND — Forest Park treated March 13 like a normal softball practice. The Rangers were upbeat. They took it as an opportunity to get better, and appreciate in the moment the time they had together. Forest Park also indulged in a game of Wiffle ball, knowing this was going to be it for a while.
The Rangers knew during school that day that the COVID-19 outbreak forced Forest Park to go on hiatus, and have to put the softball season on hold. The players stayed strong when sixth-year coach Kelly Schroering told them again there'd be no practice, but some of them teared up when they got home.
Schroering found it especially difficult having to face the 10 seniors she has on the team, but she knows she has a group of mature young ladies.
"They're in good spirits because they know it's needed and they want to take the precautions, but also I think they're still hopeful we will get to play, and they'll still get to participate in their senior season," Schroering told the Herald March 16.
She told her players what many coaches tell theirs — that they can control their attitude and effort, and to just focus on what they can control. Schroering does not know what the season will look like, but she's currently treating things as if the season will happen.
Schroering encouraged her players to keep with as much activity as possible. The fifth-grade teacher uses Google Classroom to help her students, and is using the same technique to send workouts to her team. Her hope is they'll in shape, and it would be even better if someone at home threw or engaged in some other activity with them.
The current plan is for Forest Park to return to school on May 1.
The Rangers have only gotten in five of the 10 required practices, though this is five more practices than some other spring sports teams have gotten. Schroering embraced this needing more practices, though. She wouldn't want to come right back and start playing as soon as the team returned.
There will be no shortage of competition if and when things pick back up again. Forest Park has five sophomores and seven freshmen to go along with the 10 seniors it has. The Rangers have one junior in Emma Gray. The ante is upped when factoring in that the Rangers lost first baseman Lydia Hauser and right fielder Jordyn Wiseman to graduation last year, and Schroering told her players that no spot is really safe.
Forest Park went 14-8 a season ago, falling to Class 2A-No. 1 Tecumseh in the sectional semifinal. That record was an improvement from going 12-13-1 in 2018. The Rangers are happy, but not satisfied, with going 14-8 in 2019. Schroering noted that her players are "pumped." She praised her team's attitude, and credits her senior class with the improvements everybody has made.
They have a pair of college signees in Kennedy Sermersheim and Macie Zink. Sermersheim inked her letter of intent to play for Olney Central College (Ill.), while Zink signed to play at Indiana University Southeast. The two seniors both can catch and are versatile with the ability to play multiple positions around the field.
Zink earned All-State honors last year by the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association. She batted .551 and had an on-base percentage of .640. Zink added three home runs and 18 RBIs to go along with that.
Schroering likes how Forest Park's offense looks going into the season, but the team is still trying to work out the defensive kinks. However, one of the things that make those two desirable at the next level is the ability to play multiple positions. Having a quality bat doesn't hurt either.
"They work hard," Schroering said of Sermersheim and Zink. "They want to succeed and they're two important pieces. It's pretty rare that you'd have two catchers on your team that are going to play at the next level, but I tell you what, they have a great supporting cast that helps puts them in good positions."
The Rangers have different options in the circle, too. They can go with senior Allyson Werner, or sophomore Ali Welp. The coach said both arms got good experience last year, and both pitchers have the ability to pitch to both catchers. Which battery she chooses for a given game will be played out as the team experiences the season.
Schroering was a catcher herself in her playing days, and she gives both Sermersheim and Zink the freedom to call pitches, citing their softball IQs.
"I think that helps the chemistry between them and the pitchers," she said. "They have a little bit more of that control, and it allows them if the pitcher wants to work a little quicker, they don't have to wait for the signal from me."
She noted there's more depth in her team than there was in the past. It's a matter of figuring out which pieces help the team the most and in which spots. Schroering believes in her players, but knows things would have to go their way to win a championship.
Forest Park is in a tough sectional that goes beyond just Tecumseh. North Posey, Evansville Mater Dei, Perry Central, Tell City and South Spencer are all bound to present challenges, but the coach knows her players are up for the challenge.
"If there's one thing that I've seen over this last week is that our girls have the right attitude," Schroering said. "They understand and are growing in their maturity about how to handle situations. We're ready for it. We'll be ready whenever we get the chance."
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