Cougars kick off season at South Decatur today

A month ago, Coach Bob Tabeling had high hopes for his Trinity Lutheran softball team.

A couple weeks ago, returning pitcher Kamzi Gross was involved in an automobile accident and suffered a hairline fracture in her left hand.

When she went to a doctor Monday, she was told that the fractured bone wasn’t healing like she hoped it would, and she will be sidelined three more weeks.

“She can’t do anything,” Tabeling said. “She has to wear a soft cast. She can’t get a glove on.”

That means Grace Lance, a freshman left-hander, will be doing all the pitching the early part of the season.

Tabeling has confidence in Lance. “She has done a lot in travel ball on weekends the past three years. She’ll get some trial by fire.”

He said he wants her to throw strikes and make opponents put the ball in play and he is counting on the defense making plays behind her.

“We’ve got more players on the team (14) this year than we’ve had in the past,” Tabeling said. “That’s nice to have. We’ve got a mixture of travel ball players and new players, so a lot of the things we’ve seen the past couple years, I think, will be (different).

“Obviously, when you lose Bailey (Reynolds) and Genesis (Munoz), we’re not going to have that type of power. We’re going to have to be more of ‘put the ball in play’, and move people around.

“We’re going to have to take advantage of every situation, because we’re not going to have that home run power, especially now that Kamzi (will be out three more weeks).”

Bailey Tabeling will bat leadoff with Lance hitting second. Both are left-handed slap hitters and will try to use their speed to get on base.

Coach Tabeling’s original plans were to bat Gross third, Madison Keith fourth and Ally Russell fifth, but with Gross out those plans have changed.

“We’re going to have to get those base hits and run the bases extremely well,” he said. “What we try to talk about with a lot of these girls that haven’t played a lot of softball is you can’t do a lot to fix your swing, and your approach at the plate is the most important thing.

“What pitch are you looking for, what pitches can you hit, and be ready for them. We want them to be aggressive and take good pitches. When we get a runner on base we’ve got to put it in play, and steal a base here or there, and take advantage of an error or a passed ball.”

Olivia Cain will be the starting catcher. Keith will start at third base with Bailey Tabeling at shortstop, Russell at second and Dianna Munoz at first base. Tabeling said Russell may have to play centerfield and someone else play second.

Russell said she has split her time between those two positions the past three years.

“I like both,” she said. “It looks like I’ll be playing second base.”

She said defensive strategy changes with each batter depending on how many runners are on base, how many outs there are and where the other team is in the batting order.

“You have to watch their size and if they’re left handed they might slap, and then you have to make sure they’re not stealing,” she said. “I love defense.”

Russell enjoys hitting. “When you bat, Bob says, you want to look for the perfect pitch that you can hit. You pick a pitch you really like and go from there. I watch the high and low pitches for sure because I am so small.”

Russell likes the environment of the team and said it’s a lot of fun right now. She said as a senior, “I’ve got to make sure I keep everyone’s head held high.”

Sam Enzinger will be in left field, Hannah Kerkhof will be in right, and Coach Tabeling said three or four girls are battling for playing time in center field.

The Cougars open today at South Decatur and will have their home opener Thursday against Southwestern (Hanover) at 5:30 p.m.