With three of his star players from last year's Class 4A state championship squad off playing at college, Chesapeake softball coach Dennis Thiele is ready to take his team and start running.
The bases, that is.
What the Cougars have done with power over the past four years --three state championships -- they will attempt to do with speed and aggressive base running this season.
Thiele admits that he would rather see his squad do as it has done in the past and, "let the big girls knock in the smaller ones," but understands that he will have tomake do with was he has.
"We lost Amy Jakubowski, Stacey Matcuk and Stacy Grokas (to graduation) and they were our three, four and five hitters, so that's a pretty big void to fill," Thiele said. "Losingthose three sticks is going to give me a bigger job in juggling my lineup.
"We have to utilize our strength, and our No. 1 strength this year is speed. But, speed doesn't do you any good if you can't getanyone on base."
Chesapeake's baseball team has experienced some problems in the past, but under the new direction of Coach Jim Simms,the Cougars are looking to restore their image and win a fair share of games in the process.
"We want to make sure that teams that come down Mountain Road to play us, they aren't as happy on their way home," said Simms, who took over the reigns from Bob Dill, who last year led the Cougars to a 9-11 record.
"We'll just keep battling. If we make a mistake we'll come back to practice and try and correct it.Right now, they're doing everything I ask of them, but realistically, we know it's a tough league."
Dill describes his team as "blue collar" and himself as a "workaholic" but in spite of that, he realizes his squad will go into nearly every league game this season as an underdog.
"There's not a 4A league in the state that's any tougher than the one in this county," he said. "By the first game, we want tobe ready to compete. One way or another, we'll learn something."
Thiele, too, still is learning about his young players, but he said he has seen enough of them to see their glowing potential.
"I may have the most consistent hitting team I've had in years," he said. "I don't have a weak bat in the lineup, and they're all potentially dangerous at the plate."
Thiele's daughter, Becky, is one heavy hitterhe can rely on. Last season, the speedy second baseman led off for the Cougars and batted .320. Some other proven hitters include Jeanne Coltrane, Stacey Necessary, Natalie Black, Tracy Starke and Nancy Yeager.
While Coach Thiele will be missing Jakubowski's bat, he will miss her arm even more. Although no one exhibited such overpowering skills, Thiele believes he has enough firepower to get the job done.
On the mound for the Cougars this season will be right-handed senior Kristin Spak. Spak saw little action last year with Jakubowski handling most of the pitching chores, but has shown promise in the preseason.
Another of Thiele's windmillers is junior Lori Congdon, who, when not on the mound, will see action at second base. Congdon, who pitched for Chesapeake's junior varsity squad last season, will try and make the transition to the varsity.
"We don't have a major strikeout artist like we had in the past, but the girls can get it over the plate and mix it up," said Thiele.