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The Kutztown High School softball team is still glowing from the 2012 season. After winning a division title, then getting to the Berks County League semifinals before losing to eventual champion Daniel Boone, the Lady Cougars went on to win their first district championship since 2002.
Then, with a 3-0 win over Chestnut Ridge, the Cougars had their first state tournament win in 10 years. It was a great season for Kutztown, one they would like to repeat again this year.
“The coaching staff is eagerly anticipating the season after the wonderful year we had in 2012,” said head Kutztown softball coach Keivn Conrad. “We have many returning varsity players and some underclassmen that had post season experience from last year.
“We have a lot of positions to fill and we have been working in the off season open gym and are excited to put it together on the field. Everyone is just excited to get out on the field and start practicing.”
The bad news is that the Cougars lost six seniors from last year’s team. The good news is that they have seven seniors on this year’s team, including ace pitcher Jodi Weaknecht.
“Jodi is a very versatile player who steps up and will play any position asked of her,” said Coach Conrad. “We look to her to spark our offense.”
Taylor Faust will be the power in the middle of the line-up and Coach Conrad said that Shannon Rothermel has made great strides in the offseason and is ready to make a big contribution this season.
One thing that the 2012 trek through the post season did for this team is give them a lot of big game experience. They do lose a lot of key players from last year’s team, but the younger players did a lot of growing up during the playoffs. The coaches know that experience like that can’t be replicated in practice. Mostly, Conrad likes the attitude of his players.
“The strength of this year’s team is the experience they gained from working to develop our team-first attitude which we worked on last year. They understand that they will possibly have to work on skills to play any position that is needed of them.
“There are many versatile players who can go back and forth between positions and may be called upon to do that. My coaches worked last year to strengthen our coaching philosophy of working to do what is best for the team and we think that is going to be a strength again this year for our team to compete.”
The holes that were created by the graduating seniors will have to be filled. At this point, the Kutztown coaches don’t know who’s going to fill them, thus the need for the players to be as versatile as possible.
The Lady Cougars should be a solid favorite to repeat as the division champion, but you never know when you have that many holes to fill. But they have enough talent back to at the very least seriously contend for the division title.
After that, only time will tell how good this team can be. If the coaches can find the right players to fill the holes, maybe they could defende their district title. But that’s a long way off and too many things can happen between now and then to make any informed predictions.
Coach Conrad doesn’t looke that far ahead. His goals for this team are just to get his team as ready as it can be for the season.
“As in any year our team goal is to develop the skills needed to extend the year into post season play,” said Conrad. “We look forward to achieving that goal.
“We also have individual player goals that we hope to meet by the end of the season and as coaches we encourage the girls to learn the skills needed to achieve those goals.”