Mehlville softball head coach Tim Ode believes that finding a starting pitcher and building on ‘infectious energy’ could prove to be successful for the Panthers. Photo by Jessica Belle Kramer.
By Stephen Glover
For the Call
The Mehlville High School varsity softball team is just getting its cleats on the ground this year.
“We have a lot of new faces,” Mehlville Senior High head varsity softball coach Tim Ode said. “The seniors that we do have returning don’t have a lot of varsity experience.”
One of Ode’s chief concerns this season is Mehlville’s lack of a starting pitcher. The Panthers’ head coach is hoping that a “starting pitcher by committee” setup will prove to be successful until a starter emerges from the team ranks.
“We have already talked a bit about being very supportive of teammates, because we’re going to essentially have somebody out of position and in the circle,” Ode said. “We don’t have anyone who pitches full time in the summer. So that’s going to be a challenge for us this season.”
Sophomore Jenna Benson proved to be one of the best players in the area last year as she put together an impressive .400 batting average with nine RBIs and five doubles. Benson was also lethal on the base paths as she swiped a team-leading 14 bases.
“I would put her up as possibly one of, if not the one, best female athlete we have in the school,” Ode said. “She was a second-team all-conference selection and to do that in our conference as a freshman is pretty tough.”
One trait that the Panthers head coach likes about the starting shortstop is her tremendous amount of infectious energy.
“She’s our energy leader,” Ode said. “A buzzword for the kids is that she’s our spirit animal. Whenever she’s around, we have a second gear that we just don’t have when she’s not out on the field for us.”
At catcher is senior Jessica Smith, who batted .205 last season with nine RBIs and six runs scored.
“Like all catchers are supposed to do, she’s our field general,” Ode said. “She’s directing traffic and helping out a lot of the youngsters that are unsure what their roles are.”
Senior Courtney Fritsche batted .265 with eight RBIs and four runs scored at third base last year. This season, however, she will spend time at both third and first base.
“She’s probably our best power source,” Ode said. “When she hits the ball, it goes a long way. We just need for her to do that more consistently in order for us to be successful.”