Archive for Thursday, March 16, 2006

Cards hope to carry 2005 momentum into new season

March 16, 2006

For a team who fell just one run short of a state berth last year, one would think there may be a slogan, a mantra or some other motivating factor floating around the softball diamond during Eudora's practices.

Hardly.

The only mantra going around the camp of the sub-state runners-up is action.

"This group really works well together," Eudora coach Cara Kimberlin said. "The work ethic is really good, and it's a business-as-usual type atmosphere around here. They're working hard regardless of whether I'm yelling at them or not. So I'm pleased with that."

Despite coming up a run short in 2005, the Cardinals finished the year on an upswing by rebounding from a 1-5 start to compile a record of 13-9 going into the regional final against Louisburg.

Many of the components of that strong finish return to the field for the Cardinals in 2006, including a strong nucleus of pitching, which helped the Cardinals down the stretch.

Junior Brynn Hamilton and senior Karen Spence return to the rotation as an effective right-left combination.

"Those two kind of contrast nicely," Kimberlin said. "Brynn has pretty good command of her pitches and Karen's pitches break differently because she's a left-hander. So it's nice to have that contrast."

Spence and Hamilton both boasted earned run averages under 1.30 and will be joined by junior Caitlyn Riser, a right-hander, who led the squad in innings pitched and recorded 41 strikeouts.

Offensively the Cardinals bring back most of the bats that were essential to the late season run but will have to replace some power.

The Cardinals lost the bat of catcher Alissa Hamilton to graduation and with her went the leader in batting average, hits and extra-base hits.

Returning to the lineup are seniors Kelsey Epperson and Michelle Deluna, both of whom provided steady production. Deluna batted a robust .339, while Epperson delivered 20 hits in 2005.

Defensively, the Cardinals return a core infield, which includes Epperson at third and Deluna at short, both of whom garnered all-league honors along with Spence at first.

Spence grabbed all-league honors as a utility player in 2005.

At the catcher's spot, the Cardinals replace Alissa Hamilton, which may be prove the toughest spot to fill on the defensive side for Eudora.

"Alissa had such a good arm, and that will be hard to replace," Kimberlin said. "She was good defensively, and on her reputation alone not many teams would try to steal for fear of being thrown out."

Sophomore Kayci Vickers will get the opportunity to fill the gap left by Hamilton. Vickers played mostly junior varsity in 2005, but did log varsity innings behind the plate.

The Cardinals will get the 2006 season underway with a match-up against Frontier League opponent Paola on March 27. The game will be the earliest the Cardinals have gotten the season underway during Kimberlin's tenure, but the head coach feels her team will be ready.

"We'll have plenty of practice time to get ready," Kimberlin said. "I'm just glad we don't have spring break the week after this because then we would have a week off and then a game. But we'll be ready."

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