Shelby Tuttle’s first season as head softball coach was a tough one.
The Carson Senators had a 9-22 overall record, including a 3-13 league mark, and they missed the zone playoffs.
Tuttle believes things will be different this year for many reasons. The biggest reason is that 11 players return from last year’s squad, including leading hitter Jennifer Purcell, who hit .429 with 24 RBI and three homers a year ago. Another reason is the attitude of the players.
“We had really good turnout (for conditioning),” said Tuttle. “I felt like I had to drag people out here last year. We even had some people working out in the fall. I like the approach of the girls in the offseason workouts. Everything has been really positive.
“I’m really optimistic about this year. I think we’re a better all-around team in terms of pitching, hitting and defense.”
Tuttle returns three pitchers from last year’s squad — Purcell (5-10, 3.02), Becka Breuer (1-3, 0.98) and WNC-bound Kaitlyn Jimmy (0-0, 12.00), who made just two appearances. Listening to Tuttle talk pitching will be by committee this year. If Jimmy can pitch like she did this summer, it will be huge for the Senators.
“I plan to rotate them quite a bit,” Tuttle said. “We’ll see how thing play out. Kaitlyn pitched one or two varsity games after we fell out of contention for zone. We’ll see how she responds to the varsity level. Kaitlyn has had some control challenges ever since she was a freshman. Her control has been better.”
Tuttle has made a change at catcher. Malia Tiffer (.164, 3 RBI), who played outfield last year, will start behind the plate. Tiffer is more at home behind the plate. Kandis Tuttle (.221, RBI) has been shifted to third base.
“Malia functions better behind the plate, and we needed Kandis on the infield. We got hurt by bunts last year, and Kandis is a good athlete. I needed some speed there.”
First base will be split among Breuer (.288, RBI), Jimmy and Aubrey Northrup (.262, HR, 7 RBI).
Tuttle is hoping sophomore Gabby Winder can handle second base.
“Gabby has improved a lot in the off-season,” Tuttle said. “If she can do the job, we’ll leave Aubrey at first (or DH).”
Sophomore Bailey Allen (.250, 4 RBI) starts at shortstop and Kandis Tuttle will be at third, a new position for her. The CHS coach is hoping his daughter’s athleticism will offset her inexperience at the position.
Purcell, who led the team in hits (39), RBI (24), doubles (6), triples (2) and homers (3), hit a robust .429, which also led the team. Almost one-third of her hits went for extra bases. Michelle Perry (.258, HR, 12 RBI) starts in center, while right field will be manned by Skye Simpson (.188, 2 RBI), Maddy VonDuering (.250) and/or Winder.
Tuttle is carrying just 11 players on his varsity roster. Obviously he can’t afford any injuries or academic issues.
“There are a couple of girls on JV we might be able to bring up,” Tuttle said. “I wouldn’t mind having one more player on varsity, but if I bring a freshman or sophomore up I want them to play not sit the bench. I’d rather see them get innings on JV. If we don’t have injuries or grade problems we’ll be OK with the 11 we have.”
Softball has a new format this year. Like baseball, softball will be one league this year. Tuttle likes the change because he feels the best eight teams will always be in the playoffs. He pointed out that in some years, the fifth-place team in one division might be better than the fourth-place team on the other side, but only four from each division advanced to regionals.