Holly Spann ready to make waves with Beaver softball in 2004
By Ben Risinger, SID
February 26, 2004
The Beaver softball team looks to hit the field in 2004 and "Take Care of the Ball." New head coach Holly Spann has implemented a fresh and different training program to prepare her team for anything they might come across during the season.
"We have been practicing since January 5th," Spann said. "I feel very confident going to Florida . We have had much progress in skill, knowledge of the game and how to prepare for different situations. This year we have added a lot of strength and stamina training that will help a lot."
Bluffton posted a 15-21 overall record and 5-9 mark in the Heartland conference in 2003. The Beavers also earned a berth in the HCAC tournament where they dropped both games. Finishing the season, however, Bluffton won six of their last eight regular season games. The 2004 Beavers look to do just that and more as they bring back many position players and lost only four seniors to graduation. In 2004, the team again looks to just take care of the ball.
The team's new philosophy (Take Care of the Ball) was started by Spann to better
help players understand and acknowledge what is expected of them, on and off the field.
The team has certain core values that they have listed as an integral part of their
teams system. Excellence, Integrity, Respect, Loyalty, Academic Superiority, Honesty
and Team over Self are core values that the softball squad will work off of in 2004.
A softball with the core values written on it will be passed around between the team
during the year to help keep fresh in their mind what they are trying to accomplish.
"Last season the team lost ten games by one run and six games by only two runs," Spann said. "I don't want losses like that slipping through our fingers this year. As long as we are prepared, work as a team and take care of the ball, we won't lose those games."
The Beavers return sophomore All-HCAC ace pitcher Sarah Betts to the mound. In her first season at Bluffton she quickly became a mainstay in the Beaver record books. Her 22 appearances on the mound was a new record with her 1.84 ERA being the fourth best of all-time at the school. She pitched 129 innings, posted 126 strikeouts and completed her rookie season with a 10-9 record. Freshman Mikah Coffindaffer and Andrea Wilson will round off the pitching staff. The three pitchers will bring different styles to the mound that will confuse opposing batters.
"Sarah Betts has to be one of the strongest pitchers in the HCAC," Spann said. "Mikah does not have the speed as much, but she has great control of the ball. Both pitchers will do very well because they are entirely different from one another"
The infield positions will be filled with four juniors who bring much experience to the field. Jackie Wells will be at third, Michelle Pleiman behind the plate at catcher, Lane Leedy at first and Mandy Snider will be at short. Bluffton is still looking to see who will become the second base starter for the year.
"We have a very solid defensive foundation," Spann said. "Our four juniors bring great experience back to the field and Michelle is a very smart catcher who will command the field."
Senior Amber Fitzwater will return to left field with junior Allison Lange in center. The right field position is still open and for the taking. Fitzwater and Lange are co-captains who will lead the team in 2004. Lange also leads the bats for Bluffton. In 2003 she led the team in slugging percentage (.504), hits (39), doubles (10), home runs (3) and total bases (60). "Both Amber and Allison are very fast and strong. They will be flexible enough to make the plays we need them to from the field," Spann said.
As the Beavers prepare to go south to Florida to participate in the Rebel Spring games, Spann knows that the team is prepared and ready to start their season, and take care of the ball.
"I want to come back home with some wins," Spann said. " Florida will be a time to figure out who we are as a team and prepare for the regular season. The players are ready and want to play."