SOFTBALL

T.F. South juniors enjoying their 'seniority'

2013-04-10T17:00:00Z 2013-04-11T12:11:06Z T.F. South juniors enjoying their 'seniority'Phil Arvia Times Correspondent nwitimes.com
April 10, 2013 5:00 pm  • 

At the top of the order, there is a freshman. In the pitching circle, another one.

In the middle of the lineup, the lone senior.

The rest of T.F. South's softball lineup is made up of juniors. In fact, the Rebels are so junior-dominated, they organized their preseason practice schedule around the school's after-school ACT prep course, which meant 5:45 a.m. workouts three days per week.

"It was rough," coach Jamie Arundel said. "It was awful. But these girls made a commitment to it."

And they committed to one rule:

"If you were late," Arundel said, "you brought donuts next time."

Consider that the closest thing to hazing the Rebels have. Indeed, the mere suggestion to second baseman Brianna Heintz that freshmen seem ideally suited to carrying bat bags brought a furrowed brow and a quick, "Oh, we don't do that."

Rather, Heintz loves the idea of helping the new kids out. Why?

"Because we know how it is — being younger on an older team," she said.

"We" would be Heintz, shortstop Ashtyn Kapovich and catcher Cori Reynolds — all juniors, and all in their third year on the South varsity.

Even Arundel, in her second season as South's coach, has less seniority.

"Our coaches expect more out of us because we've experienced everything," Kapovich said. "You've got to do what you've got to do to get the team going."

Reynolds, perhaps because she so often has the ball in her hand, frequently takes charge.

"The catcher has to be the leader," she said. "I don't want to be like, over-leading them, but I like to show them the way, get all their confidence up."

How?

"If we have a bad inning, I'll go out there, bring the infield in for a timeout, talk to them on the mound about the situation, try to get our momentum going," she said.

"Cori is the ringleader of the three," Arundel said. "The other two follow nicely in her footsteps."

Kapovich and Heintz have been known to resort to comic relief.

"They're like dumb and dumber," Reynolds said. "But not dumb."

And not one-note. Don't try to pigeonhole these girls as the serious one and the two jokesters.

"I think they're all able to understand that at the end of the day they want the same outcome, a win," Arundel said.

The Rebels, with a Monday win at Bloom, improved to 3-5 on the young season. Freshman Devin Pieper has pitched every inning for South, while Reynolds, Kapovich and Heintz have done more than their share to lift the offense.

Reynolds is leading the team with a .612 average. Consider it an extension of her sophomore season, when she hit .412 and earned honorable mention recognition on The Times all-area squad.

"Cori is a consistent hitter," Arundel said. "There's never a time where I'm worried with Cori up to bat. She's not going to put it over the fence … but she's going to put the ball in play and make something happen every time."

Kapovich isn't generally a long ball hitter either, despite batting in the cleanup slot.

"Just recently, I hit my first home run ever — ever since I played softball," she said. "It was 1-and-1. On the third pitch, I hit it and it cleared the fence. It just amazed me how far the ball could actually travel when you hit it with a bat."

Kapovich, hitting .476 this season, was a Times All-Area pick in 2012 and an honorable-mention all-conference pick as a freshman.

She missed much of April last season with a torn meniscus in her left knee, but has bounced back well. With Pieper around, she's no longer required to split her time between pitching and shortstop.

As for Heintz, the former right-handed batter has moved full-time to slap-hitting from the left side.

"Last year, I started just switching, still batting righty," she said. "But then I was doing better lefty so during travel that was all I worked on, and this year that's all I do."

She's hitting .375 out of the ninth spot after batting .256 as a sophomore.

"I don't think Bri gets enough credit for how good her bat is, because she's not the 3-4 hitter who comes up and clears the bases," Arundel said. "She gets on and gets over.

"She's not going to be the home run hitter on the right side. The switch to the left side of the plate was a great idea because she can put it in play and get down the line."

Getting down the line is one thing, good team chemistry another.

"I think we have a better chemistry than we did last year," Reynolds said.

Arundel agreed, saying, "We had a lot of outside issues that were brought onto the field."

This year the drama has been minimal.

"We've had a lot of ups and downs already with all the cancellations and makeups and adjustments in our schedule," Arundel said.

"You have to make those times fun for the girls. I'd say there's a good amount of fun that's had on this team."

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