The Eastern softball team is off to its best start since 2013 at 9-3. Coach Kim Schuette’s final season with the Panthers was in 2013, and that team finished 20-3.
She is back this year and has brought even more success back to the Eastern softball team. Not to say there was not success here before, it is just that Schuette’s track record speaks success.
Even with some odds stacked against the Panthers having to field a fairly new and young team, it has been clear that the inexperience has not been a problem. Most of their starters are in their first year of being a starter.
The only two upperclassman starters are senior first baseman Amber Toenyes and senior catcher Ashlynne Paul.
Other starters with some experience starting are sophomores Mady Poulter and Kayla Bear. There is a full year under each of their belts, but that is still a lot put on underclassman players, but Eastern has had nothing but success.
But Schuette is quick to direct the reason for success to the players.
“It’s not me, it’s the players,” Schuette said. “They are the ones who chose to be excited from day one, embrace all of the “new,” listen with open ears and respond and of course work hard.”
Maybe Schuette’s presence just represents a good luck charm for Eastern.
She spent the last three seasons at Purdue following the 20-3 OVC record in 2013 and coached the Boilermakers to an 85-81-1 record including five wins over top 25 opponents. Schuette also took the team to Big 10 tournament finals twice in her three-year stint.
Two of Eastern’s most effective players this season have been Bear and junior Taylor Monahan. It’s not that they have hit towering home runs, it’s because they find ways on base and ways to steal.
Coach Schuette, a former slap hitter herself, knows the importance of that and said that speed does not slump. The two speedsters rank No. 2 and No. 3 in the OVC in stolen bases. Bear has 29 and Monahan has 27.
Eastern is also a strong hitting team from top to bottom and a run-producing machine. The Panthers have scored 186 runs and have allowed just 125. Having two pitchers like juniors Jessica Wireman and Michelle Rogers helps with that.
Success up and down the lineup and options off the bench, gives the team depth that in any sport is priceless. With that kind of depth, it’s not easy to crack the lineup and that is why there have been some variation throughout the year.
“It’s not easy to be on our team and in our program as we just reviewed earlier this week because we have high standards all of the time for doing the right thing because it’s the right thing to do,” Schuette said. “It’s demanding, but hopefully they would say it’s special and fun […] Panther softball that is.”
Whether it is Schuette at the helm or a stacked team, it has Eastern in a good position and playing its best softball since 2013.
Sean Hastings can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]