By Chris Parker
Central softball entered the 2018 season with the excitement and challenge of playing in the Ozark Conference for the first time. The Lady Bulldogs would finish the season with an overall record of 1-16 with that one win coming in conference against Parkview.
“A lot of my girls have never played or played sparingly. It was an eye-opener. My girls were really excited at the beginning of the year. I think they realized where they have to get to and what they have to do in order to compete. There were a lot of games where we didn’t really compete, but their spirits didn’t get down. They played hard for (the entire game),” Central Head Coach Rick Hammers said.
The Lady Bulldogs return their top player in Evangel commit Sarah Cummings who will play shortstop.
“Probably the heart of the team and has been the last three years is Sarah Cummings,” Hammers said. “She is the glue on the team. She is like having another coach. She is the model player on the team. She is the girl that people look up to.”
To her left on the field at second base will be fellow senior Katie Saiko.
“She is a good contributor to the team. She is very coachable. (Katie) puts the ball in play and makes the routine play,” Hammers said. “Those two girls (Saiko and Cummings) are our backbone. They have to hit and field for us to be successful.”
Pitching will be handled by junior Alexis Goforth who pitched for the first time last season. Senior Hannah Woodruff will be in the mix at catcher after playing that position last year.
“She had never pitched (before last year). She put a lot of effort in and threw strikes. She was someone that was dependable and would be there every day and worked hard,” Hammers said.
Fundamental development will be a key for the Lady Bulldogs this year according to Hammers.
“I want us to develop daily. I don’t think anybody really knows the situation we are in. We get girls that come in and have never played or have one year of experience, and then they are thrown into the conference to face girls that have been (playing softball) since second grade. By the time the season develops I want them to be able to make that routine groundball play. I want them to make that routine fly ball catch. I know a lot of people take that for granted, but over at Central that is a big thing. I want us to learn the game. I want to get knowledgeable about the game and become more of a cerebral (team),” Hammers said.
Central will again play its home games a Cooper Sports Complex, but next year the Lady Bulldogs will have their own field to call home
“With the bond last year and the work of Athletic Director Josh Scott, we are going to get a new field,” Hammers said. “We are going to have a home to play at. In the past we have played over at Cooper Park. It won’t be available this year, but next year we will have a new all-turf infield and a natural grass outfield. For the younger girls it (creates) a lot of excitement to be able to play on our own field and call it our home.”
Central opens the season on Sept. 4 in Springfield against Camdenton.