Softball in full swing
This is a time of year inseparable in its association with transition. The cold blanket of winter is shaken off and nature dons long days and short sleeves. And basketball bounces out of the way, and softball makes its pitch to the fans.
The beginning of spring sports is often a positive time. The games move from the confined spaces of a gym to the wide-open air of the ballpark.
The Eudora softball team began practice March 3 but is already putting together the pieces of what players anticipate to be a highly successful year.
"Practice has been going real well," said coach Cara Kimberlin. "We have the majority of our varsity squad back with just a couple of positions to fill."
Kimberlin, at the onset of her third season at Eudora, feels as though the team is increasingly receptive to her message.
"The preaching we've been doing the last two years is finally getting through," she said. "It was the best second week of practice we've ever had."
The Cardinals are looking to improve on last year's squad, which at times struggled offensively.
"They've all been hitting the ball well in the batting cage," Kimberlin said. "It is a lot different to hit in the cage than in a game, but it is a confidence builder."
Eudora is attempting to build on last year's 6-15 campaign in which they lost five games by a single run.
"The ball bounces a couple of different directions either way, and it can change the game," Kimberlin said.
The Cardinals return four players with all-league honors, forming the foundation for this year's team. These four players are familiar faces who just weeks ago completed their responsibilities on the basketball court.
Sophomore sensation Kayla Moyer was a first-team all-league selection as a utility player/designated hitter. The left-handed Moyer was highly effective at using her speed, often employing a strategic drag bunt. She, like so many of the Cards, played competitively during the summer. Moyer was primarily an outfielder last summer for the Lawrence Phoenix, a position she will likely play this season for Eudora. Mallorie Cleveland was a second-team all-league second baseman. The versatile senior is also the team's No. 2 pitcher.
Three-sport star Lauren Kracl was selected all-league honorable mention at shortstop. The junior middle-infielder is not the quickest at her position but at six feet is able to cover a lot of ground. Kracl is able to range well into the outfield and get to bloop balls behind second base that most cannot.
Sophomore Alissa Hamilton rounded out the group by grabbing all-league honorable mention as a catcher. Hamilton joined teammate Moyer as the rare freshman to receive such honors. Eight other players will complete the varsity squad. An additional 12 players will be selected to complete a junior varsity roster.
"We'll have a couple of players rotate between varsity and JV," said Kimberlin. "I wish we had 12 spots on the field, but I would rather they play than sit on the bench."
Another familiar from the hardwood is starting pitcher Kelly Spence. The right-handed junior pitched nearly every game for the Cards a year ago. The Eudora ace excels at changing speeds. Spence will intermittently throw a change-up at the hitter to offset her 50-plus mile-per-hour fastball, which comes at the batter from just 40 feet away.
This year Kelly will be joined by her freshman sister, Karen, a left-handed star in the making. Eudora fans will have to wait until next year to see the lefty/righty Spence sisters together at the varsity level though.
"(Karen) will pitch in JV out of necessity. We're short on pitchers this year or she would be varsity," Kimberlin said. "I just want us to play to our potential, which should be pretty good. That's one thing to say but it's another thing when you actually see it happen."
Cardinal fans will be granted that opportunity Apr. 8 when Eudora travels to Pleasant Ridge for a 4 p.m. double-header.