The unusual and adverse weather conditions that all Clermont County spring sports teams have had to deal is wreaking exceptional havoc on Williamsburg softball head coach Rick Healey and his inexperienced team heading into the 2013 season.
“Gym and gym and gym,” Healey said of how he and his team have been dealing with the lingering winter weather. “I’ve talked to some other coaches and they’re all in the same boat. No one’s been outside. It’s wet and cold, so we’ve done (lots of preparation) inside.
“The kids are like, ‘come on, Coach, we have to practice in the gym again?’ and I tell them that it’s the only option unless they want to practice outside when it’s 28 degrees.”
Healey has tried to combat the redundancy of rehashing the same drills and mechanics in the gym by introducing different ways of preparing for a sport that is exclusively played outside while getting into playing shape almost exclusively indoors.
“We’ve tried playing with a 16-inch ball, one of the softer balls, and play games with that,” Healey said. “We’re trying different stuff that way to try and keep (the players’) interest.”
The players Healey will be putting out on the diamond this year will be new faces to a lot of Williamsburg fans. The Lady Wildcats that went 13-8 and finished in third place in the Southern Buckeye Conference’s National Division have been flipped nearly completely as all five of their All-Conference selections were lost to graduation.
“We lost a lot of seniors last year, all five were starters,” Healey said. “We have a lot of regrouping and putting new kids into positions that they haven’t played before. Not being able to get outside has made it even more difficult.”
Healey still expects his team to compete, perhaps not for the league titles that Williamsburg fans have been accustomed to vying for, but there will be no shortage of effort left on the field by the Lady Wildcats. Healey said that the future of the program looks bright and will begin to develop this season as many freshmen will see a copious amount of playing time.
“At this point, I have a lot of young freshman that are going to get thrown into the mix, whether they’re ready of not,” Healey said. “Ally Grable is a freshman that is going to see the field a lot. Morgan Dollut is going to see the field. Megan Hawkins will see the field. We’re just going to be really, really young. We’ll try to rebuild and see how it goes from there.
“This is my 13th year of coaching and I’ve never had to play so many freshmen, but we’re going to do our best and make it work however we can make it work.”
Getting thrown into the SBC National mix got a little harder this year for the Lady Wildcats’ freshmen as perennial American Division champion Clermont Northeastern was moved into the smaller-school division.
Healey is well aware of the added challenge that CNE brings to the National Division and expects them to be the team to beat in the SBC.
“With the realignment, we will see Emily Anderson from CNE, who is a DI college pitcher,” Healey said. “We went from Montana Wear, the outstanding pitcher from Felicity who graduated and we thought we would get a breather from that type of pitcher, but we can’t breathe too deep because CNE is on our side (of the league) this year.”
CNE may be the cream of the crop, but Healey fully expects his team to compete with them and possibly play the role of spoilers if teams fail to give the Lady Wildcats the attention that they deserve.
“Our goal is to have a good season and compete with CNE and make them work for the league championship,” Healey said. “Blanchester is always solid, Batavia is always solid, Georgetown is always ready. You can’t take a day off or you’ll get beat.
“We’ll take our best shot and when we play people, they know that we’ll be fundamentally sound and if they don’t watch what they’re doing and make a couple mistakes, young or not, we’ll end up with a victory.”
The Lady Wildcats have gotten off to a good start, sweeping their season-opening doubleheader over Whiteoak 7-2 and 17-0. Healey and the Lady Wildcats will try to build upon the early-season success and shock a few teams along the way.