Summit’s loss is Devils softball’s gain
Eagle Valley softball coach Brad Stiles was expecting to have only one senior this season after losing five standout, four-year players from last year’s 17-4 team.Turns out, Stiles will have three seniors on his squad when his team takes to the field against Basalt Sept. 7 at home.Center fielder Whitney Beasley is the one senior whom Stiles was counting on. Catcher Shannon Buhler and pitcher Caitlin Schmidt are the two that the coach had absolutely no clue would be joining his team until this week when he learned that two Summit High School players were looking for a new team after the school’s softball program was axed for the season due to insufficient numbers. Without the two new additions, the Devils were still planning on contending for the league title in the 4A Slope, after winning the 3A Slope title last season. With them, however, the Devils’ chances of making another league-title run and a possible state run are noticeably stronger. “These two girls are going to make us stronger,” Stiles said. “We were planning on Chelsea Lueders doing most of our pitching. She’s the only returning letterman. But, Caitlin is a strong thrower, so our pitching got better with this. We were going to hold our own hitting anyway, but Shannon is another strong hitter. If our pitching holds up, we’ll be OK.”
A change upStiles was planning on starting junior Kayla Phillips at catcher, but with the addition of Buhler, Phillips will now rotate between catcher, first base and the outfield.The idea is to keep two good bats in the line-up while giving both players enough time behind home plate.”Kayla will catch part of the time because she will be our catcher next year,” Stiles said about the shakeup. “She’s got too good of bat not to be hitting somewhere.”Junior twins Morgan and Amy Strakbein take over at shortstop and third base, respectively, with Lueders penciled in at second when she’s not on the mound. “I know that she brings up the intensity level when we play together,” said Morgan Strakbein of the connection that she and her sister have in the infield. “I know how fast she’s going to throw it at me at a certain distance and little things like that. It really gets me prepared. We really work together pretty well.”Freshmen Emily LyBarger will also see time in the infield as well as in the outfield depending on where Phillips is playing and who is pitching.
Junior Rachel Sandoval and sophomore Danielle Cavanaugh will also figure into the outfield rotation.Pitching is the keyThe thing that Stiles is most excited about with the Summit pickup is the option of having two solid pitchers, whereas before Schmidt’s arrival he didn’t have a proven No. 2 option. Considering how his team went 3-1 against 4A and 5A schools last season, Eagle Valley’s coach admitted he was never very concerned about the jump up in classifications.Still, he believes pitching will be the key to his team’s success in its new league and with the addition of another ace he now has a solid 1-2 punch.”I don’t think (the jump to the 4A Slope is) going to mean that much to us,” Stiles said. “We played Rifle twice last year and split with them. We played Delta and beat them. We played Durango last year, who is was a 5A team and beat them. If we can pitch, we’ll be OK. If we don’t pitch, it’s going to be a long year. That’s true with any division, but I think it will be more pronounced at 4A.”
A bitter tasteThe one lingering disappointment from a stellar season in 2003 is the loss to Gunnison in the district game that ended the Devils’ state dreams way earlier than expected. In the two previous meetings before districts, Eagle Valley beat the Cowboys by a combined score of 31-11, but failed to ward off the huge season-ending upset in early October. That loss may reap dividends this year come playoff time, since nobody on the team wants to revisit the heartbreak of that loss again.”I’m actually excited (about the move to the 4A Slope),” Beasley said. “We’ve played a lot of teams before and we know who they are. I think we’ll stick with them. I can see us going far, probably farther than last year. Nothing less would be acceptable.”Contact Nate Peterson at 949-0555, ext. 608, or via e-mail at email@example.com