Area schools kick off the 2021 season with a sense of urgency
Like many schools across the state, New Franklin, Pilot Grove, Bunceton and Prairie Home opened with the first week of practice to kick off the 2021 season.
At New Franklin, head coach Ross Dowell said the Lady Bulldogs softball team had 20 girls suited out for practice for the first week. Although seven of those are freshmen, Dowell also has a good mix of upperclassmen with three seniors, six juniors and four sophomores.
Dowell said he thought the first day of practice was a success. “Luckily, we had camp two weeks ago, where we explained what different drills would look like,” Dowell said. “As long as we build off of each day, the first-two weeks are important to put in everything that will appear during the season. However, we will also be working on basic fundamentals, breakdown drills and then a lot of situations we were weak on during the summer scrimmages and conditioning.”
New Franklin baseball coach Erich Gerding said 15 players suited up for the first day of practice. Although the Bulldogs return the bulk of their lineup with eight starters back in 2021, Gerding said he still planned on introducing/reintroducing fundamentals, work communication, get new guys to know the returners and vice versa, and get started on some bullpens. “The first day of practice was great,” Gerding said. “We got sweaty and we got dirty, which is what we are gonna have to do to compete.”
At Pilot Grove, second year coach George Monk greeted 17 players for the first week of practice. Monk said the Lady Tigers worked on basic skills. “With a lot of inexperienced underclasswomen we have a lot of work to do before we are able to compete with Ross and his New Franklin girls,” Monk said. “However, we had a good start. Our returning players have brought forth their leadership and team spirit that I believe the younger players are willing to follow and accept. If they do we may not have the best record but we will improve and enjoy our season.”
The Pilot Grove baseball team will also try to add to their district championship from the spring under second year coach Joe Vossler.
With 15 players suited out for the 2021 season, the Tigers will return four starters and 11 letterwinners for the fall season.
Vossler said the fall season is a great opportunity to see newcomers and younger players.
Meanwhile, at Bunceton, Christine Rutledge had 11 players out for the first week of practice in volleyball.
The Lady Dragons return all six starters from last fall. “We have a positive outlook for this season,” Rutledge said. “We are hoping to improve our game and pick up a few wins.”
As for the Prairie Home Panthers baseball team, head coach Dustin Ray said like any new coach to the program his plans are to get to know the guys and to let them get to know him as a coach. “We have to figure out what holes we have from last year’s graduating class and how we are going to fill them,” Ray said.
Ray said the first day of practice went great. He said the team spent some time going through expectations and then everyone’s favorite conditioning.
“As much as we all want to get done on the first day, we never get everything completed on the first day,” Ray said. “I feel as if we accomplished my goals for that day, but as always, the expectations stay growing.”