Monk’s return to coaching could reap rewards for Lady Tigers softball team
After 32 years of coaching at three different schools, Pilot Grove softball coach George Monk is back to lead the Lady Tigers for the 2020 season.
After stints at Bunceton, Rock Bridge and Boonville, Monk finally came out of retirement to do something that has been a part of his life since 1988.
Monk will lead nine members of the Lady Tigers softball team, which of which are returning from the 2019 season.
“I just love it,” Monk said on his return to the game of softball. “You love working with kids and hopefully Ihave a little bit of knowledge that they can go out there. “But when you played and especially when this opportunity came up that I could come back to Pilot Grove and kind of complete the circle, there was no looking back. I started playing here in high school. We played fast-pitch in high school. Iplayed fast-pitch out of Pilot Grove with a bunch of great guys from Pilot Grove and played until I was in my 40s and now I can come back and coach. It’s kind of a cinderella story I guess.”
Truth be told, Monk will have his hands full this season. Although the Lady Tigers finished 5-1 in the Central Activities Conference in 2019, they were five games under .500 for the season at 8-13 overall.
Needless to say, Monk feels like this year’s team should be among the top in conference.
“If we played together as a team, we should have a strong finish,”Monk said. “I would say that we have four core players that everybody kind of knows that the burden is going to be on their shoulders. We’ve talked about that as a team. If you can start around those four girls, you’ve got Marci Lammers on the mound, Kaitlyn Maggard at third, Grace Phillips at shortstop and Danae Lammers, who will probably see a little first base and outfield for us.
“Those four girls are pretty good to build around. We’ve got some speed and a little bit of hitting. We also have some experience and desire to make everybody around them better.”
Monk said if he had to cast his ballot now for the favorite in the CAC, New Franklin would be at the top of that list. He said the Lady Bulldogs are so well coached and that Ross Dowell does a great job and always competes.
It’s no secret that the Lady Tigers lost several good players to graduation. Depth could also be a problem with only nine girls out.
“We don’t have many options this season with only nine,”Monk said. “Our offense is going to have to prove itself in my mind at this time. We’re also going to be really young and inexperienced in the outfield. But at the same time, I think we can put a solid defense on the field. Marci is looking good on the mound, and our infield looks to be pretty salty so the defense should be good.”
Although Monk has yet to announce his starting lineup for the 2020 season, it’s a moot point when it comes to pitching, third base, shortstop and first base/outfield.
Lammers will lead the Lady Tigers in the circle after pitching 9 2/3 innings in 2019. Of course Monk is hoping Lammers picks up where she left off at the plate after hitting .345 last fall with 19 hits in 55 at bats with 11 RBIs.
Danae Lammers and Kaitlyn Maggard also return after hitting over .300 in 2019. Danae Lammers will more than likely get the nod at first base and returns after hitting .348 with 16 hits in 48 at bats with 17 runs scored. Maggard, meanwhile, batted .354 with 23 hits in 65 at bats with 20 RBIs and 18 runs scored.
Maggard will play the corner at third base next to Phillips-the veteran of the group. A three-year starter for the Lady Tigers, Phillips returns after playing short as a sophomore and second as a freshman. She also hit .262 in 2019 with 16 hits in 61 at bats 11 RBIs and 17 runs scored.
Other players that will need to step up this season if the Lady Tigers are going to be successful are Grace Peterson (catcher), Olivia Felten (second base), Maddie Watring (left field), Ava Hoff (center field) and Elaina Wirths (right field).
Make no mistake, the Lady Tigers will need to score runs this season if they are going to compete in the CAC. With three players returning that hit over .300 last season, Monk knows that he can’t win on pitching and defense alone.
Of course there is this thing called running the bases, which Monk has pride himself on since he started coach some 32 years ago at Bunceton.
“That’s the plan,”Monk said on running the bases. “Let’s go. Let’s throw the ball around and let’s run the bases. I tell the kids all we have to do is run 60 feet in a straight line and the defense has to throw, catch and receive and then make a play. We are going to put the pressure on them as best we can.
“We’ve got some kids that are going to let us do that. We kind of lack the overall team speed. We’ve got some at the beginning and then it drops off, but I think if we are smart baserunners I think we’re still going to run. Like I tell the girls, I will get more of them thrown out at home plate than anybody ever thought possible.”
Monk said it also helps him coming back that the girls on the team are making it fun.
Although he had to get approval from his wife to coach, Monk said he has loved every minute of his time on the field. He said the girls are a hard working bunch and they are buying into the team concept pretty well, which is important to him.
“I think it’s going to work,” Monk said. “We’ll see when competition gets here whether we fold or whether we rise up to it, but I think we have the makings of a good ballclub.”
2020 PILOT GROVE SOFTBALL SCHEDULE
9-1-ST. ELIZABETH, 5
9-5-Marshall Tourn., TBA
9-10-at Glasgow, 5
9-14-at Salisbury, 5
9-21-at Russellville, 5
9-22-at Jamestown, 5
9-25-at Cairo, 5
9-28-SO. BOONE, 5
9-29-at Madison, 5
10-1-at New Franklin, 5
10-6-at Leeton, 5
Note: Home games in caps.