Seahawks excited for start of softball season
(March 17, 2017) With three seniors, two juniors, four sophomores and four freshmen, the Stephen Decatur softball team is young in age overall, but the Lady Seahawks have experience.
“We have four girls that play travel ball together and the rest of the girls have been playing for years,” said Heather Patnode, now in her fourth season as head coach. “We’ll just need a little time to get use to each other, how we work together, and putting the right people in the best positions.”
Of the 13 players on Patnode’s roster, five are returning from last year when the team went 4-15. Decatur lost 6-5 to James M. Bennett in the first round of playoffs.
“The girls seem to be very excited to start the season and to make our team successful,” Patnode said. “The girls seem knowledgeable of the game. Our goal is to make the best team possible with the girls that we have.”
Sophomore Alexis Black returns to the mound. She will also be the clean-up batter.
Patnode said Black, who earned All-Bayside South Second Team honors for her performance during the 2016 season – her first as a Seahawk – improved during the offseason and looks “fresh and fast.”
With 10 years of pitching experience, Black said she feels comfortable on the mound.
“I hope to be able to lead the team more when I’m pitching and make sure we get ground balls and fly balls, and just help my defense better,” Black said. “You have the ball every play and you’re kind of the leader on the field, so you have to be able to help lead the team along.”
Sophomore Alex Richwalski is back behind the plate as the team’s catcher. Patnode said she has strengthened her blocking and throwing skills during the offseason.
Junior Emma Hamilton-Blackford and senior Sam Kefauver are returning as infielders and will help with Decatur’s offensive lineup, Patnode said.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to keep our heads up this year because we’ve had trouble with that in the past,” said Blackford, a member of the team for three years. “I think this year we have a solid team and everyone’s cooperating.
“We have a lot new girls who are showing a lot of talent,” she continued. “Everyone has energy and they are glad to be out here.”
“We have not chosen captains yet [as of Tuesday], but Emma has really stepped up and taken the lead on and off the field,” Patnode said.
Patnode will rely on several newcomers to contribute. She is looking forward to seeing what the “young spirit and experience our freshmen will bring to the table.”
“They’re very excited to play and bring a new level of optimism and competition among the girls,” Patnode said.
Freshman Amber Whittaker will be starting in centerfield. Freshman Kinsley Doebler will be in the outfield. Freshman Sierra Eisemann will be a utility player, who Patnode said she can use anywhere. She might start in the infield, Patnode added. Kylie Whitaker, a freshman, will play in the infield as well.
“We’re starting to mold together as a team. I think we’ll have a pretty good season,” Black said. “We hope to have a .500 season or better, work together and be the best we can. I’m happy softball season is here and I’m excited for the year.”
Earlier this week the girls made individual goals as well as set team goals.
“We want to be competitive in all of our games to prepare for playoffs,” Patnode said. “Each game and practice we will learn from our mistakes and take pride in ourselves and our successes. We value teamwork as much as being a family. We will make mistakes, learn, win/lose and grow together as one.”