Panthers look to improve on last season

by Greg Ceilley
of The Review staff

VANESSA ARBUCKLE, senior third baseman, fields a grounder at the Plymouth softball team’s preseason practice Monday afternoon. Arbuckle is one of five returning starters for the Panthers. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley VANESSA ARBUCKLE, senior third baseman, fields a grounder at the Plymouth softball team’s preseason practice Monday afternoon. Arbuckle is one of five returning starters for the Panthers. – Review photo by Greg Ceilley PLYMOUTH – Defense and timely hitting will be crucial for the 2017 Plymouth softball team which hopes to improve on last season.

The Panthers return six letter winners, including five full- or part-time starters, from last year’s squad which finished 5-9 in the East Central Conference and 6-14 overall. PHS lost to Chilton in the first round of Division 2 regional play.

“I expect us to be competitive in conference. We have several newcomers who need to adjust to the speed and quickness of the game. I think our outfield will be solid and has some agility,” said Panther head coach Dawn Krebsbach who is in her third season at the helm.

“We added a few speedy players, Sylvia Peters and Natassja Gustafson [both juniors], so I’m looking for them to contribute on the base paths. If we play clean, we can beat anyone.”

Krebsbach pointed out the keys for her team to have success and improve on last season.

“Defensively, we have to play clean. We cannot be giving solid teams multiple chances. We also have to get key hits when needed and do the little things right,” she said.

Heading the group of returning starters is junior center fielder Jessica Leider who earned All- ECC first-team honors last year. Leider was Plymouth’s top hitter in 2016 with a .345 average. She had seven RBIs and a team-high 20 hits.

The other starters back are senior third baseman Vanessa Arbuckle, senior outfielder Jordyn Thomas, junior shortstop/ infielder Sommer Stoney and junior first baseman Kendra Stauss. Senior outfielder Alyssa Krahn is the other returning letter winner.

Arbuckle led PHS in doubles with six and was second on the team in RBIs last season with eight.

“I expect Arbuckle, Leider, Stauss and Stoney to lead the team. Leider is coming off a great year. I expect Arbuckle, Stauss and Stoney to lead our defense,” said Krebsbach.

“I expect Arbuckle to be an offensive leader. Stoney will have to make the adjustment from outfield to shortstop. Stauss and Stoney will be called upon to get some key hits also.”

The coach mentioned the team’s strengths.

“We have good team leadership that should help carry us. I also think defensively our outfield is solid,” she said.

“This team has a good work ethic. We have a variety of players that can play multiple positions, especially those in the infield.”

Krebsbach said the weakness is pitching depth.

“If Sylvia [starting pitcher] gets hurt we really don’t have a backup,” she noted.

Peters, who pitched on the junior varsity last year, takes over the pitching duties from Erica Helmer who graduated. Helmer was on the All-ECC honorablemention team in 2016.

“Sylvia needs to focus on one batter at a time, one pitch at a time. She also needs to learn to take her time on the mound,” said Krebsbach.

“Sylvia is working on a few new pitches that we’ll get into the rotation. She’ll be just fine as long as she is mentally strong.”

The coach pointed out three varsity newcomers who have impressed her.

“Elsa Blad [sophomore outfielder] is very enthusiastic. She has such a great work ethic and is very supportive of teammates. She’ll contribute in the outfield,” said Krebsbach.

“Jess Fenske [junior catcher] and Maddy Straub [junior catcher/ first baseman] will be counted on for catching duties. They have put quite a bit of time in to improve their blocking and throwing.

“We have several newcomers that I expect to contribute. With only 13 players on the roster, each girl will be expected to play an important role to our success this season,” said the coach.

Krebsbach expects a strong conference.

“Our conference is tough. I would expect Waupun, Winneconne and Kewauskum to be the top contenders. Campbellsport is always tough as well as Kettle Moraine Lutheran [Jackson]. There are no easy games in this conference,” said observed.

Waupun and Winneconne shared the ECC title last season. Waupun returns ace pitcher Megan Van Ruiswyk, a junior, who was an All-ECC first-team pick in 2016.

Krebsbach stated her top goals for this season.

“My top goals would be to improve upon our record from last year. We want to decrease how many runs we allowed from last year,” she said.

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