EHS soft­ball gives back while look­ing for­ward

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - GABRIEL STO­VALL gsto­vall@cov­news.com

Most coaches de­spise the term “re­build­ing year,” and Heather Wood is no ex­cep­tion.

Though it could be un­der­stand­able why some may de­sire to af­fix that moniker to the East­side Ea­gles’ 2017 soft­ball cam­paign. Af­ter a 2016 sea­son that saw the Ea­gles post a 21-11 over­all record and a per­fect 13-0 mark on their way to a Re­gion 4-AAAA ti­tle, Wood finds her­self hav­ing to re­place nine se­niors from that state tour­na­ment bunch.

Still not a re­build­ing year, though. She gives it another name.

“I don’t like the whole re­build­ing con­cept be­cause we’re al­ways try­ing to build and grow,” Wood said. “But I will say this is a tran­si­tion year. I lose my en­tire out­field, but I think we have a solid core to build upon, es­pe­cially with the pitch­ing staff and in­field.”

Wood is look­ing for big things from her pair of hurlers in sopho­more Kaylee Rusk and ju­nior Daynie Ferry. They’ll try to fill the gar­gan­tuan shoes left be­hind by the grad­u­a­tion of Molly Moon and Lau­ren Bes­hears.

But Wood seems con­fi­dent that mat­u­ra­tion will quickly give way to pos­i­tive re­sults.

“I’ve been so top-heavy with pitch­ing depth the last cou­ple of years that girls like Daynie didn’t get as much chance as maybe she would have,” Wood said. “But I re­ally think they’re go­ing to step up for us and grow. Both of them are such dif­fer­ent pitch­ers, so I think they’ll bal­ance each other out on the mound.”

Another young stand­out that’s quickly blos­som­ing into a for­mi­da­ble force is sopho­more catcher Al­y­see Dobbs. Dobbs started and starred as a fresh­man, and she also was named The Cov­ing­ton News Fresh­man bas­ket­ball player of year. Dobbs has strength­ened her game through travel ball as well this sum­mer, and Wood is ready to call her a key cog in this young squad’s po­ten­tial suc­cess.

“With Al­y­see and the rest of those girls I men­tioned, they’re re­ally go­ing to be our core,” she said.

Wood also men­tioned ju­nior Jor­dan Rit­ten­bacher as a po­ten­tial heavy hit­ter.

“Her bat looked good this sum­mer, and she’ll also be get­ting more play­ing time at third base,” Wood said.

The in­ex­pe­ri­ence is def­i­nitely some­thing new for Wood this year, as she has just one se­nior in short stop Macken­zie Walker. But she’s try­ing hard to make sure she doesn’t look so far ahead at what could be with this group that she misses the teach­able mo­ments in what’s in front of her.

“Things re­ally do change when you have new­com­ers on the team and you’ve gotta show them our ap­proach as far as de­fen­sive game plans, of­fen­sive game plans and the rou­tine ex­pected on var­sity,” she said. “I think right now we’re tak­ing it a lit­tle bit slower, but you al­ways wanna look at the big pic­ture.”

The ex­pec­ta­tions are dif­fer­ent, also. With se­nior laden teams and in the past, there al­ways seemed to be an un­der­cur­rent of big post­sea­son as­pi­ra­tions. That may not be the case now, but Wood isn’t com­plain­ing about that.

“With those se­nior heavy teams, there was a lot of pres­sure with that,” Wood said. “We gotta ac­com­plish this. We gotta get to Colum­bus. And those ex­pec­ta­tions will still be re­it­er­ated, but now there’s not as much pres­sure with a younger team. We’re more re­laxed and work­ing on just be­ing com­fort­able, not be­ing timid and help­ing them un­der­stand that they’re re­ally con­trib­u­tors to the team, and not just on the bench in case we need depth.”

It’s more work for Wood, but she doesn’t seem to mind.

“I’m prob­a­bly hav­ing to coach the hard­est in my life,” she said. “I nor­mally like to come out and do a lot of conditioning, but now it’s all fun­da­men­tals, and that’s how

it should be, too. It’s go­ing to take some time, but it’s en­joy­able.

East­side soft­ball camp draws more than 30

Part of the East­side soft­ball ex­pe­ri­ence this sum­mer was the suc­cess of its an­nual sum­mer soft­ball camp.

With over 30 campers spend­ing three days last week hav­ing fun and hon­ing skills, Wood said it was a great way to bring the sum­mer off­sea­son to a fun end.

“This gives the young play­ers who are campers the chance to look up to our older, var­sity play­ers,” she said. “It’s a great op­por­tu­nity for them to have in­ter­ac­tion with our girls and give our girls a chance to be role mod­els.”

Wood said the camp’s turnout was com­pa­ra­ble to what it was last year. But she’s hop­ing that the mo­men­tum will con­tinue to build.

“We’re hav­ing a youth day on Au­gust 22 where all our girls who were campers will get to come out and watch our play­ers play. The young girls get re­ally ex­cited to see the older ones. It’s a great way to be a part of our pro­gram.”

Gabriel Sto­vall | The Cov­ing­ton News

Coach Heather Wood ad­dresses over 30 soft­ball sum­mer campers Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.

Gabriel Sto­vall | The Cov­ing­ton News

East­side soft­ball coach Heather Wood is op­ti­mistic about her young squad for the 2017 sea­son.

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