Cobras Softball working hard during the fall season
Published: Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, September 25, 2012 17:09
As the fall semester started, Parkland’s cobra softball team looked like a completely different team than the one we saw in the spring.
The 11 freshman that are new to the current Cobra roster arrived for the first day of practice not knowing what to expect. It didn’t take them long to learn Head Coach Chuck Clutts’ expectations.
“They were scared to death,” Clutts said jokingly about his team’s initial reaction to college softball. “The lifting and conditioning was a little bit of a surprise for them.”
“In high school we didn’t condition or lift,” freshman Jordan Wheeler said. “I’m really sore.”
“The first day it seemed kind of rough for the freshman,” sophomore pitcher Ali Kimble said. “I was the same way the year before though.”
An important part of the fall season for the lady Cobras is getting into better shape than when they started the semester. Clutts admits he has seen great improvement already in just three weeks.
“We’ve been here three weeks now, and they’re doing so much better in conditioning and running,” Clutts said. “They’re doing a great job lifting and getting stronger. They’re doing things they never knew they could do.”
The Cobras conditioning consists of an hour of running on the track and lifting in the new fitness center weight room each day.
Not only is the fall season key for the Cobras conditioning, but it also provides time to gel with one another. This is an important factor when more than half the team is new.
“Once you spend so much time with a group of people every day it’s easy to get to know them,” Kimble said. “All of (the freshmen) have really impressed me.”
“At first I was really scared,” Wheeler said about getting to know her sophomore teammates. “They’re all really nice and really fun, so it was an easy transition too.”
Aside from the chemistry aspect, which is extremely good for the very young team that the cobras are, the focus is put on improving essentials and basic softball skills in the fall season.
“Our emphasis is on finding out where everybody can play at, and working on fundamentals,” Coach Clutts said. “Also having the freshman learn what college softball is like, too.”
Kimble sees the importance of the fall season not only for the team but for her own personal game.
“I’m trying to get my pitching back to where it was in the national tournament last year,” she said. “I’m trying to build my hitting back up also because my hitting is really down right now.”
Over the summer Kimble didn’t pitch as much as during a regular season and saw velocity and movement drop in her pitches. She has made that her main goal of the fall season.
Through 11 games she owns an ERA of 1.83 which is very good, but only a .176 batting average, roughly half of the clip she performed at last year.
For the returning sophomores, it’s maintaining that consistency that made them so dominant a year ago.
Sophomore Kelsey Kniepmann continues to hit at a remarkable pace throughout her softball career as the talented infielder is producing at a .421 mark for the 8-3 cobras.
Freshman Shelby Franzen, a St. Joseph-Ogden product, is leading the freshman hitters with a .571 batting average and seems to be handling the adjustment to the college game just fine.
Despite the solid production received from Raeshel Braden, Erin Hettinger, Alex Jacobs, Lauren Klein, Tana Rentschler, and Kniepmann, the Cobras are still not where they want to be as a team. Yes it’s early but the expectations for a Clutts coached team are always high.
“Our hitting really sucks right now,” Clutts said. “We’re only hitting .290 and that’s not good enough.”
Clutts knows that the results will come if they keep practicing as well as they’ve been practicing.
“We’ve hit well in practice, but we’re just not hitting well in games,” he said. “I’m not worried about that.”
A constant staple of Cobras softball has been a dominant pitching staff. That trend looks as though it will continue as their collective ERA through 11 games is a 1.87.
Clutts is very optimistic about his current staff.
“The depth is really good,” he said. “The pitching has just been really good so far.”
The schedule the Cobras play this time of year differs from their spring schedule in that they only play games on weekends leaving the weekdays free for more practice time. The schedule consists of just 25 games, roughly half of that of the spring season.
The idea is that the younger players gain valuable college experience while hopefully avoiding injuries due to a lighter load.
Even though its just three weeks into the fall and championships aren’t being determined this point in time, the Cobras have focused goals in place.