JOLIET – In any sport, after a program gets a new coach, the second season tends to be better. The coach knows the players, the players know the expectations of the coach.
The Plainfield South softball program is in that situation and is excited about its prospects under second-year coach Dave Randall.
Randall, who has 37 years of coaching experience, was happy with the way the Cougars ended last season, as they were playing some of their best softball of the year. They finished 12-21.
“This year is somewhat different, as last year was a complete overhaul of the program,” Randall said. “We really only had three weeks to get to know everyone, break them down and teach them the way we wanted to do things. The girls progressively got better. I have already seen in practice this year that they retained much of what we taught. They have confidence, not only in themselves, but about the expectations. I know them much better and they know me, it was a two-way street.”
This season’s team is a veteran group with 10 seniors, one junior and four sophomores.
“We are top-heavy with seniors, have only one junior, but the sophomore class is very talented,” Randall said. “We will have four on the varsity, and the junior varsity also has talent, which will provide us with depth, not only this year but in the future.”
Pitching is important in softball, along with the catcher, who usually is an extension of the coach. The Cougars have depth behind the plate.
“I love to catch and be the leader on the field,” senior Cam Mosher said. “I talk a lot, and it’s the perfect position for me. I get to see the entire field, and I’m involved in every pitch and every play. Coach [Randall] has taught us a lot. He has broken down our mechanics, and you can see the improvement. Coach makes the game fun, and not only teaches us about the game but about life lessons we will take forward.”
Pitching is one reason the Cougars were playing better at the end of last season, and that will be tested early as the Cougars will take their first spring-break trip to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
“I’m so excited about the trip we are taking this year,” senior pitcher Sydney Poppe said. “This is my first week back after having knee injury last year. I’ve played softball since I was 10 years old, and I have to finish this out. These girls on the team are my friends. We’ve done so much together. Our bond is so much better, and much credit goes to our coach. He has taken the time to work with everyone on the team individually and make us better.”
“Our pitching got so much better by the end of the season,” Randall said. “We cut down on the walks, and we competed so much better. I’m excited about the position because we are so much further ahead than we were last year.”
The Cougars can hit, have four senior starting position players back and have a talented group of sophomores ready to step in.
“We have a really good group of girls on this teams,” senior first baseman Katie Kilgore said. “This is our last year for our group of seniors, and we want to go out with a bang. I like what coach has been teaching us, and now it’s more advanced. I’m very excited about the season.”
“I know this conference [Southwest Prairie] is very good,” Randall said. “Last season I was learning about everything as well and was really impressed with the very good coaches in the conference. A lot of times I just sat there and observed what everyone was doing, and I stole a few of their ideas.
“It’s our job as coaches to get us to that level.”