Friday, March 26, 2010

Now the season really gets underway

With our arrival in Pella, IA, in the next 20 minutes, I thought I'd write a quick post tonight as we are about to really get our season started. It seems like eons ago that we actually played a game, and I'm hoping we don't come out too rusty tomorrow afternoon against a tough, scrappy, aggressive Central squad who already beat us 2-0 in Florida a couple weeks ago. I'm hoping we've improved, and I know that having the opportunity to practice outside the past 2 weeks should factor into our improvement. We are on the road for the next 7 days, playing 5 doubleheaders. I must admit, the bus ride has gone extremely fast compared to the 21 hours it took us to get to Panama City Beach, FL!

When we arrive home a week from today, we will have almost half of our season complete. It never ceases to amaze me how compact the softball season is in the Midwest and other "northern" states. It seems that just when we get started, the season is over - and we've practiced and practiced, and practiced and..........

I've been listening to the team's rendition of several different songs coming from the back of the bus tonight, and I'm thinking that if their softball careers don't work out for them, the next American Idol might just be wearing a Blugold uniform! I've even heard some harmony among the noise and it's been quite impressive. After all, we DO have a vocal performance major back there - but her "softball" voice, and her "opera" voice are 2 very different sounds! :)

Will keep you up-to-date with what I'm hoping are highlights during the next week!

For the Love of the Game,
Coach H

Friday, March 19, 2010

Back in Wisconsin

Well, as we suspected, the weekend in Panama City Beach was fast and furious. After winning our first 2 games, we dropped 4 straight to TOUGH teams. I'm confident that our non-conference schedule is going to pay off and prepare us for the WIAC, which is ALWAYS tough, day-in and day-out. The Lead Off Classic field of teams was impressive, to say the least. It was truly an incredibly tough tournament but so very good for our players to see what they need to do and who they need to beat if they want to contend at the end of the season.

We learned a lot about our team during our trip to Florida. We learned that our pitchers can throw well enough to keep us in ballgames and give us a chance. We learned that we need to spend EVERY day for the rest of the season putting MORE pressure on our players in practice, especially defensively. And we learned, among many other things, that our offensive execution has a lot of room for improvement.

We saw flashes of brilliance in Florida, but we also played pretty poor defense at times. Since getting home, however, we have determined what we need to do to make our team better and we have spent the past 3 days working very hard at those things. We have improved this week, although it still hasn't been pretty at times.

We took Tuesday off after arriving back in Eau Claire just before midnight on Monday night (after spending over 12 hours on the bus). We had 2 absolutely GORGEOUS days for practice on Wednesday and Thursday - it was nicer those 2 days here in good ole WI, than it was in PCB last weekend -, however, is not as pleasant as typical WI spring weather rears its ugly head and reminds us that summer is not here yet. I think it was around 34 degrees today at practice time.

The positive thing is that we have only played 6 games so far, with another week of practice before we play again. The other positive thing is that our schedule is not going to get any easier during spring break. But we know that playing this kind of schedule is the best thing to do.

For the Love of the Game,
Coach Huntington

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Opening Day!


Well, since we HAVE played 2 games now, I suppose it's time to log in and post a new message. Obviously I have been pathetic at keeping this up-to-date, but now that the season has REALLY started, I promise to work harder at it! Besides, we have another 21 hour bus ride to look forward to after we're done playing tomorrow, so what else do I have to do? :)

After almost 6 weeks of practice in the gym, it was AMAZING to finally get outside onto a real field. We had the opportunity to practice on our way down to Panama City Beach, FL, at the University of Alabama softball stadium. It was an amazing experience and we had a TON of FUN! Patrick Murphy hosted us and spent about an hour with the team, providing us with the history of the program, the stadium, and giving us the real "red carpet" treatment. We were ALL very impressed by his "southern hospitality" (even though he IS an Iowa Boy!). It had rained almost all night, but by the time we were ready to practice, the infield was actually dry enough for us to use part of it. The energy from our team was electric and as good as I have felt about this team during the entire preseason, I felt even BETTER about them on Thursday during practice.

We did have one little snafu while in Tuscaloosa - after practice we headed to Applebee's to grab some lunch before heading the rest of the way to Panama City Beach, and upon trying to enter the parking lot, our bus got stuck on the incline! The entire team tried to push, but even after 5 weeks of P90X (just google it), we weren't strong enough to budge it. So after the big wrecker pulled it out, we were back on the road. What kind of stories like THAT can you get from FLYING somewhere with the team??? LOL!

To make the bus ride even better, we invested in 2 wireless routers, which so far have proven priceless! My student assistant coach had a professor who put her class lecture online and she was actually able to listen to it on the bus! How amazing is technology? We decided to try the routers so we could help our team stay on track with their schoolwork when we're on the road. We have an office on campus that assists professors with technology in their classrooms and that office is helping those professors learn how to put lectures, etc., online so that students who are competing in intercollegiate athletics can stay on top of things. So even though they are "physically" missing class, they really aren't because they can get everything from class online. It's an amazing thing.

In order to not make this into a "War and Peace" length novel, I should wrap up today by talking about yesterday's games. We had a good day, although in Game 1 vs. Alma College we put ourselves in a couple positions we shouldn't have been in. We got on top of them 4-1 but then let them back in. We ended up winning with a clutch pinch hit single by Jess Freagon. Alma is a team ranked in the NFCA Top 25, so it was a quality win. Jess Hegseth recorded her first collegiate strike out by getting the first batter of the game to watch strike #3. It was exciting for everyone! Freshman Kassie Krummel picked up her first collegiate win in that game, as she pitched the 7th and 8th innnings.

Game #2 was vs. Farmingdale State, which was an NCAA Tournament team in 2009 and they won their conference title. We exploded for 12 runs in the first inning and never looked back. We ended up winning 17-4, with Britt Bergquist, a freshman, getting her first collegiate HR - a 3-run HR at that!

I'm proud to say that every player got innings yesterday. Innings = experience = consistency. We work to put every player in position to be successful so that when/if something happens to a starter/regular player, we can replace her with someone who can get the job done equally well. We have quite a bit of depth from what I've seen so far. The players are making our decisions as coaches difficult - but that's a good problem to have.

We're getting up for a walk on the beach this morning to get the blood flowing and then it's off to play the current #4 team in the country, East Texas Baptist. The challenge is great, but the opportunity is greater. We're looking forward to the challenge.

Thanks for reading and I'll post again soon!

For the Love of the Game,
Coach Huntington