In the early portion of the 2022 high school softball season, teams in the 9th District are focused on building depth and gaining experience.
Daviess County, coming off last season’s 34-7 campaign and runner-up finish in the KHSAA state championship game, hasn’t yet hit the field this year — but coach John Biggs has been pleased with his team’s preseason thus far.
“We’ve been doing a little more scrimmaging in our practices this year than we’d normally do,” Biggs said Saturday. “Going into the season, we’re trying to really develop some depth In scrimmages. We’ve been playing quite a few people and giving them opportunities, trying to get them experience there to develop that depth to help us down the road.”
The Lady Panthers are still working to fill certain spots in the lineup — like rounding out the pitching rotation, establishing a leadoff hitter and deciding on a shortstop — but DC’s coaches have been particularly encouraged by their squad’s early togetherness.
“Our approach to practices have been really, really good,” Biggs said. “I think we get that because we have eight seniors and a large group of juniors. We have a good group of upperclassmen who have been in the program for a while and understand what we expect and how we do things, so there’s nothing new there.
“Chemistry has been really good so far, and that’s a key.”
DC opens the season at Butler County on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Owensboro Catholic is already off to a 3-1 start to the year after finishing as the district runner-up last season.
The Lady Aces are led by one senior and nine juniors, but coach Jeremy Phelps noted that many players find themselves with different responsibilities than in the past.
“We’ve played four games, and all of them have been close,” said Phelps, whose team went 21-14 in 2021. “I’ve got some experience returning — five or six girls that started last year — but their role is a little different. Now, we’re counting on them at the top of the lineup and to lead this team, and they’re still working on that.”
Catholic’s coaching staff expects their players to round into shape after the year progresses, which will eventually pay dividends down the stretch.
“I feel like we’re a deeper squad this year than we were last year,” Phelps said, “and that helps create competition. I do like that. If you’re playing strong, it makes somebody else give even more effort.
“We’ve got experience in the circle, so that’s what’s been carrying us.”
For Apollo and Owensboro, this season is about building on the foundation they laid a year ago.
The E-Gals, who have gotten off to an 0-2 start with a couple of bad innings in each game, return a number of starters — and coach Stephen Julian expects the experience to provide a boost for his squad moving forward.
“We have some kids coming back with experience, and last year we didn’t have any,” said Julian, whose team went 12-19 in 2021. “Our outlook is brighter than what it was last year, as far as experience goes.
“Last year, it was basically one returning player with varsity experience. Last year, we built that foundation, and hopefully, we just improve on what we did last year.”
As long as Apollo sticks to the fundamentals, Julian added, he thinks the E-Gals will see success.
“We’ve given up two bad innings in both games we’ve played, but other than that, we’ve played pretty decent,” he said. “So far, our defense — knock on wood — has been pretty good.
“It all comes down to pitching, defense and scoring runs. Hopefully, the work put in during the winter will help us with our district and region schedules.”
Owensboro coach Quincy Moorman expects some early-season mistakes from his players, but he also anticipates plenty of growth along the way.
“The expectation this season is to continue to grow and develop,” said Moorman, whose team went 8-19 in his first season at the helm last year. “We are young, so mistakes are expected early on in the season. We are looking to learn from early-season mistakes and be a more solid, fundamentally-sound team as the season progresses.”
The Lady Devils, off to a 1-1 start to 2022, are made up of mostly underclassmen — but Moorman hopes it results in valuable experience moving forward.
“We have some varsity experience but are still very young,” he said. “Several players were put in tough spots last season with little to no varsity experience. This season, we expect continued growth.
“We have one senior and one junior on the entire roster. Therefore, we are starting seven at the sophomore level or below. Not too many teams are challenged with that situation, but our girls are eager to learn and improve.”
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