Jasper softball ready to goMarch 10, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
JASPER — Softball practice officially began for Jasper this week, but coach Matt Pryor said his players have been ready to get after it for a while.
“If they could’ve started two months ago, they would’ve started two months ago if the weather in Indiana would cooperate,” Pryor said.
The Wildcats have seen success on the softball field in recent years. They went to semistate two years ago, and lost a close regional championship game to Heritage Hills last year, finishing with a 16-12 record.
Jasper is also excited to enter this season as part of a different sectional this year. The Wildcats are in Sectional 16 in Class 4A, along with Castle, Gibson Southern, Evansville Central, Evansville Harrison, Evansville North and Evansville Reitz. Pryor called it a “whole new ballgame” to be competing with the Evansville teams in that sectional. The Wildcats previously thought they were one of the teams to beat in their sectional.
“Now, we are the smaller school that we really need to pay attention to more detail in everything that we do from fielding to throwing to pitching,” he said. “That’s what we’ve been doing here in the preseason is really fine tuning everything and picking things apart — not letting parts of the mechanic be okay with. We’re not going to be okay with stuff that we should be doing perfect.”
The Wildcats are in the middle of dealing with adversity at the moment. Junior Mia Werner, the team’s top pitcher, broke her foot and is expected to be out for eight weeks. They hope to get her back sometime in May. Pryor brought up something Grace Colvin said last week at the team’s senior dinner — that this has the making to be something special with how much adversity Jasper is going through.
“She said, ‘We’re not given anything that we can’t handle,’” Colvin said, according to Pryor.
Colvin has previous experience in the circle — posting a 4-2 record last year. However, Pryor said it’s a work in progress because Colvin didn’t anticipate she’d be in the circle as much as she’s going to be. He added that his All-State player from a year ago is dealing with a sensitive back at the moment. Pryor said Colvin did not practice Tuesday and will be kept out Wednesday after a full day on Monday.
There’s no telling, though, who might be the team’s No. 1 pitcher come the season opener March 28 against Pike Central. Colvin is in the running, but so are junior Hannah Schwenk and sophomore Kylie Morton. It’s possible Pryor could throw all three of them in the same game. He praised all three of them for being hard workers and competitors. The Wildcats will pitch by committee and give different looks. They’ll also ride the hot hand if that turns out to be the case.
Colvin batted .523 with a .597 on-base percentage, cranking out five home runs with 26 RBIs against three strikeouts last year as a junior, but her coach told the Herald that’s not enough for her.
“She’s coming in hungry,” he said. “She don’t want to match what she did last year. She wants to destroy what she did last year.”
The Wildcats look to be more of a power team at the plate this year. Jasper intends to emphasize its players using the lower half when swinging. The back hip will go to the ball while the front half follows. The Wildcats previously had a hands-to-the-ball approach, depending on speed and ball placement, but didn’t have a lot of power numbers.
“We’re switching to this style so that we get every ounce of power and energy that we can create into that ball now,” Pryor said.
Pryor finds himself high on different players heading into this season. Senior Lexie Jerger is most likely going to be batting leadoff for the Wildcats, and he appreciates how Jerger has reinvented herself to be different this year. Pryor lauded how Jerger has led with her voice and her attitude. He likes her chances of scoring if she gets on base.
“She’s the one that gets stuff going,” he said. “She causes chaos out there, which is great.”
Jasper has five freshmen on its team, but Pryor especially praised what Hillary Springer brings. He commended her as a workhorse who is frequently in the team’s indoor facility and goes to many clinics. She’s gotten some time throwing this week, too. Springer also has experience as a travel ball player.
“She’s a lifer with softball, so she’s completely invested in it —from her workouts to her practices, she’s just fully invested,” Pryor said.
The coach noted the team is rusty in this first week of practice, and it’ll take a minute to knock off the rust. It’s just a matter of refreshing the memory on some technique things.
Jasper is set to be in action March 19 at Loogootee in a scrimmage. Pryor hopes to utilize that as another opportunity to shake the rust off. Then the Wildcats will be set to open the regular season March 28 against Pike Central.
“I just love this team’s attitude right now,” he said. “It’s, ‘Whatever this team needs, I’m going to do.’”
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