By TIM BIRNEY
Valley Sports Report
WAVERLY — First-year Waverly softball coach Brian Wendela believes his young team has all the ingredients to be successful in 2017.
He’s hoping his “aggressive style” will also be a boost for the Lady Wolverines.
“We’re going to be aggressive on the bases, a lot of small ball,” said Wendell. “We do have some power, we have a good mix from top to bottom.
“We’re young, but we have girls who played a lot of travel softball and know the game pretty well,” he noted. “The talent level has been a pleasant surprise to start the season.
“I think we’re going to surprise some people,” added Wendell. “These girls have surprised me; from day 1 to now is like day and night.”
Like most coaches, Wendela believes pitching is the key to success, and he believes the Lady Wolverines are in good shape in the pitcher’s circle.
Sophomore Wendi Hammond pitched the majority of innings for Waverly last season, but Wendela said senior Shailei Kraft, and freshman Riley Hall will each see time in the circle this year.
“I love where we’re at,” said Wendela. “I think the depth will give us the opportunity to rest Wendi (Hammond) before we play the Notre Dames and Edisons of the world.
“I think we have a good mix of pitchers,” he added.
Wendela said left-handed sophomore Sydney Myers, who did not play last year, is battling a nagging injury, but could also be worked into the pitching equation.
Junior Zoe Mennig returns at catcher for the Lady Wolverines, while Myers will start at first base, sophomore Kari VanAllen will play second, Kraft will start at shortstop, and Hall will man third base.
Junior Paige Miller and sophomore Jordan Mente will likely split time in right field, while junior Katie Goodwin will roam center field, and sophomore Kennedy Wheeler, and freshmen Paige Lewis and Morgan Adams will each see time in right field. Lewis and Adams may also see action in the infield.
Wendela said his three veterans played a crucial role in the preseason.
“We’ve gotten some great leadership from Shailei Kraft, Zoe Mennig, and Wendi Hammond in the preseason,” he said. “They’ve led the way in everything we’ve done.”
Wendela believes his team will be well-rounded.
“I was pleasantly surprised with how well and how quickly the girls adapted to what we want to do defensively,” he said. “We worked on it hard in the gym and the girls took to it well.
“I think 1 through 6 in our line-up, and maybe 7, is going to be strong,” noted Wendela. “I’m excited to see what we can do with the bats.
“We’re just a good mix of speed and power on offense, and the defense has been our bread-and-butter so far,” he added.
He warns there is room for improvement on defense, and at the plate.
“We’ve been working on it every day, but we need to take care of the ball after we field it,” he said. “The girls need to be quicker getting the ball to the right base to keep girls from taking the extra base and keep them from scoring extra runs.
“If we take care of the ball, good things are going to happen,” noted Wendela.
“We may struggle at the bottom of our line-up with some of the younger girls,” he added.
He may be new to IAC softball wars, but Wendela knows Notre Dame and Edison are teams to beat.
“I’m new to the IAC game, but I do know that Notre Dame is the real deal, and that Edison has another good pitcher and a good team, but we’re ready to battle with them.”
Wendela has set the bar high for his team.
“I don’t want to sell our girls short,” he said. “If we keep working as hard as we did in the preseason, I’d like to think we can challenge for our division and the IAC Championship, and make some noise in Section IV.
“The sky is the limit. With the way the girls have been working, anything is possible,” added Wendela.
IN PHOTO: Waverly’s Wendi Hammond.