AP NEWS

Crosby expects pitching to carry squad to playoff berth

February 1, 2019

The Crosby Lady Cougar softball team missed the playoffs for the second time in 15 seasons in 2018. That has not sat well with them through the offseason and preseason.

However, 2019 is a new season and a new opportunity. That season begins on Tuesday, Feb. 12 at home against Dayton.

“Things get way more serious,” said senior Kayla Rizzo. “Everyone has that look of determination in their eyes.”

The team’s pitching is one of the best things coach Troy Fox has seen during the preseason. He said senior Cece Pace and freshman Grace Sparks are hitting their spots and getting ground balls when needed.

“We have a very good pitching staff this year. That’s one of our biggest strengths,” agreed sophomore catcher Maggie Herdejurgen. “We have two pitchers who are very complementary of each other. Grace hits 62 or 63 miles per hour. Cece doesn’t throw as hard, but her spin — it’s trippy. It’s hard to see; it’s hard to gauge.”

Crosby graduated about half its starters from last year’s team, including first team all-district infielder Haley Harrison.

Among the Lady Cougars returning are Herdejurgen and outfielders junior Jenna Johnson and senior Jamie Sloane. Herdejurgen was the district Newcomer of the Year last season, and Johnson and Sloane were second team All-District players.

Herdejurgen, an Oklahoma State University verbal commit, was recently ranked 35th in Extra Inning Softball’s list of the top 100 players from the class of 2021.

“She bring a special dimension. She knows the game as well as any coach. I’m not afraid to let her call it,” Fox said of Herdejurgen. “Batting-wise, she’s fundamentally sound. When she makes contact, I’m afraid for anybody standing in way.”

While most of the other players who will start or play significant time have some varsity experience, that youth is a concern for Fox going into pre-district/tournament play. He wants to get them more game experience.

“We’re young in some spots, some critical spots,” he said. “We’re going to take a few lumps early, but they’ll grow. By the time district rolls around, they won’t be freshmen anymore.”

Fox is confident that the seniors of the team will do a great job of mentoring, teaching, and setting an example for the younger girls.

The starting lineup is not completely set yet.

Herdejurgen led the team with 13 home runs last season, but she wants to cut down on her 11 strikeouts.

Her goal is to be more consistent this season, to do a better job of hitting the ball in the gaps and hitting for a higher average.

Fox said the crowd at the Ballparks in Crosby has been great for the scrimmages.

“Our fans have a big time effect,” he said. “We like to see the stands packed, getting behind us. We have a great fan base, night in and night out, and the girls feed off of that.”

Rizzo agrees that having fans their supporting the Lady Cougars and hearing them cheer changes the vibe of the game.

Rizzo still gets nervous about the first game of the season, but she said that, once she steps on the field and the first pitch happens, she becomes focused and comfortable and things feel natural.

elliott.lapin@hearst.com

AP RADIO
Update hourly