The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

July 2, 2013

Solid offseason not the same test as 6A stalwarts, but welcome news for inexperienced Pacers

By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Enid softball coach Marsha Cusack will have bragging rights in her family this summer.

Her Pacer summer team beat her daughter Erin’s Fairview team Monday night to complete a perfect season in the Enid summer league at Pacer Park.

“I enjoy playing Fairview because I know all the kids,’’ said Cusack, whose lives in Fairview. “It was exciting for me to see Erin because she has gotten so much better ... of course it helped that I knew what her weaknesses were.’’

How much the Pacers accomplished still is undetermined. The wins came over smaller schools in the area.

“We’re still trying to figure out who’s going to be where,’’ Cusack said. “We have some young kids with a lot of ability. We didn’t get to do a lot of the short game. That’s something we’re going to have to work on with the kind of kids we have.’’

However, one problem was a good one.

Sophomore pitcher Ally Lewis was dominant enough that her defense was seldom tested. Cusack expects that will be different once EHS starts playing 6A teams in the fall.

“We didn’t get to see who can stand up at a crucial moment,’’ Cusack said. “We didn’t get a lot of opportunities to see if we’re where we need to be. Only time will tell if we can do that once we start playing.’’

Lewis showed considerable improvement from her freshman year when she was an honorable mention all-district selection.

“She’s leaps and bounds better,’’ Cusack said. “Her changeup and screwball are unbelievable. I believe she’s put seven to eight miles per hour on her fastball. She’s throwing anywhere from 62 to 66 miles per hour.’’

There are still some things Lewis needs to work on, Cusack said. She can’t afford to leave too many pitches right down the middle in 6A.

“Those go over the back of the fence,’’ Cusack said. “I do think when we have to deal with that defensively we can be pretty solid.’’

Cusack still is trying to solidify first and third base, two of the more crucial positions in fastpitch because of the short game.

Cusack is concerned Lewis and current first sacker McKayla Hurst are both lefthanders. That could create problems in fielding bunts on the right side of the infield, Cusack said.

“McKayla did a good job,’’ Cusack said. “If we can get her to field the ball with a drop step instead of turning around, she could be more than capable.

That’s something you have to develop kinetically. She’s not aware she’s turning around in the wrong direction. McKayla is quick, it’s deceiving how quick she is.’’

Keara Jenkins and Ashton King are both at third, but one might move to first.  Jenkins, a freshman, has impressed Cusack with her quickness and “great arm.’’ Hurst is capable of playing the outfield and even third.

Jenkins was a solid slap hitter.

Jace McAlister and Erin Felber shared catching duties. Both did a good job, Cusack said, but neither established themselves as the starter.

The Pacers return only three starters from a 16-22 team — second baseman Abby Lee, shortstop Haven Bay and outfielder Shelly Mueller. Cuscak said she’s counting on all three to provide leadership.

Bay was an honorable mention all-district selection.

The Pacers will have to replace All-Stater Courtney Chelf, who rewrote the EHS record book. She hit a school record 14 homers and drove in 56 runs. She batted .455 with 13 doubles and eight triples and stole 23 bases.

Outfielder Kaitlin Bell was an alternate all-state selection after hitting .385. Infielder Lacey Hudson was an all-district selection.

“Those girls are difficult to replace,’’ Cusack said, “but we have some good talent coming in. We have some freshmen who should help us.’’

The Pacers will spend the rest of their summer with various travel teams. There will be some makeup practices. Some players missed due to basketball and church camps.

“When we start practice Aug. 1, we’re going to hit the road running,’’ Cusack said.