Pitching to be key for NHS
A seasoned softball player who played collegiately at the University of Missouri, third-year Nevada High School head coach Brandi Thomsen knows as well as anyone that it all starts on the hill.
Katelyn Brier, a senior, and sophomore Rachel Kennedy, both right-handed pitchers, are back in the fold and counted on heavily to help the Lady Tigers improve on last season's 9-15 record.
"That's what basically the sport of softball is all about ... pitchers and how your pitchers do," Thomsen said. "Our pitchers are getting in a lot of time and they're getting better and growing.
"Getting them to where they're getting better and being accurate, and we're doing the job of getting the outs in the field. ... Not necessarily strikeouts, but groundouts, fly balls and things like that."
Nevada opens its season Monday at Clinton before playing the home opener at Bushwhacker Field on Tuesday against McDonald County.
The Lady Tigers, who have won only one Southwest Conference game over the last two seasons, lost several seniors to graduation.
But the cupboard is far from bare.
"Our conference is very tough," Thomsen said. "Two years ago, we won one conference game and we didn't win any last year. We lost five or six seniors, but at the same time, we had fairly young players that saw time in the field last year.
"Katelyn is probably going split time between pitching and shortstop. She's going to fill in the gap for us at shortstop. That's a big thing for her, and she's been working really hard at it this summer."
Brier is also considered as one of the Lady Tigers' top returning hitters.
"Hopefully, we can utilize her in both aspects," Thomsen said of Brier pitching and also playing shortstop, as well as her bat in the lead-off spot. "She's a run-up hitter and she can do a lot of things from the left side a slap hitter as much as she can. She can either slap the ball or hit away."
Brier says they each bring something different to the table.
"We're both different pitchers," Brier said of Kennedy and herself. "She's more of a drop-ball pitcher and I'm more of inside and screwball pitcher.
"I use a fastball when I need it. It's helped change a bit mixing things up."
Kennedy says the team bonded well over the summer.
"We're a lot tighter team than we were last year," Kennedy said, "because most of us played together on a team this summer.
"We got a lot more playing time together and got to know each other better."
The Lady Tigers are going to have to realize their roles, like the team's only other senior, Megan Ray, who is a utility player as she can play either in the infield or outfield.
"Anything to help the team," she said. "I need to help lead and make sure we don't get down. Last year, I played second base and some outfield.
"We want to play really well and win a lot of conference games. We always have had that one bad inning that has hurt us."
A season ago was a time when the opposition would come through with a big inning to seize the upper hand against Nevada.
The Lady Tigers undoubtedly are hoping that it is a thing of the past.
"We have learned that even when we get down, we've got to pick it up and not get down like we did last year," Kennedy said. "Last year, teams would have a power inning and we would just fall apart."