Baserunning key to Panther’s success early in season

Sean Hastings, Sports Editor

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With inclement weather expected for Saturday, the Panthers’ OVC season opener was pushed up to Friday evening. Eastern will play a doubleheader starting at 4 p.m. against Belmont. The Panthers’ regularly scheduled doubleheader against Tennessee State is still set to be played on Sunday.

The Panthers wrapped up their non-conference play rather successfully with multiple players stepping up into different roles filling the holes left by last years seniors. It has turned into a 14-14 record.

One player in particular who is making an impact in her first year starting is junior Taylor Monahan. Monahan is in her first year as a starter and coach Kim Schuette has liked what she has seen so far.

Monahan is a threat on the base paths swiping 19 bases on 21 attempts and holds a .359 batting average.

“Mono’ hasn’t played much in her career, but she has really embraced her role as a lefty slap (hitter) and what she needs to do is she knows she’s an important piece to the puzzle just like everybody else,” Schuette said.

Sophomore Kayla Bear is the team’s leadoff hitter and has speed that almost goes unmatched. She found ways as a freshman to beat out balls to first on plays where it seemed like a sure out. But Monahan following Bear in the lineup gives two big speed threats at the top of the order.

And with softball, hitters will struggle from time to time, pitchers will have a rough outing, but speed is a constant that can always be used to an advantage.

And one of the many things Schuette knows about softball, and her being the winningest coach in program history proves that, is speed and slap hitting.

“My biased opinion of being a former slapper: speed doesn’t slump,” she said. “If you have a speedy up, as long as they touch the ball there is an opportunity to be safe. (Bear and Monahan) love to steal.”

Getting on first base for any player is exciting, but for players like Bear and Monahan seeing second base just 60 feet away and having Schuette give them the steal sign, their eyes light up she said.

“They’re just drooling and waiting for that,” Schuette said. “And that is a big part to our game. We hope that we get some stolen bases this weekend and go along that path as well.”

Also throughout the preseason Eastern has been playing around with a few different looks in the circle to relieve juniors Jessica Wireman and Michelle Rogers.

Schuette has looked to freshmen to help have that third arm that can be relied on regularly and time will tell when that gets figured out.

She said the team talks before and after every practice that each player should have the mentality that they want to be the player that is ‘the topic of conversation.’

“We’re waiting for our third pitcher to be the constant topic that we’re all like ‘hey we have got get her in there,” Schuette said. “Michelle and Jess are doing a nice job and the more competition there is for that starting lineup, or on the mound, or on the field the better we are.”

Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]