COVINGTON - Trying to turn around a team that finished 3-17 in 2008 is enough to think about, but Salem softball coach Stephanie Bassett has to do it while rebuilding half the roster.
Seven freshmen and first-year player O'Keema Turk, a sophomore, litter a roster with just one senior, trying to compete in the balanced Region 8-AAAA.
"We will be at a disadvantage because I have seven freshmen on the team, but I've really been impressed with the talent these girls possess," said Bassett. "Fortunately, I've got some young talent with speed and experience in the outfield. I won't be able to replace the leadership last years' seniors possessed, but hopefully we can build these new players to that level."
One of those new players is Rylee Rogers, a freshman who will open the season, Friday against Fellowship Christian in the Diamond Classic, as the team's starting pitcher. Despite Rogers' inexperience at the high school level, Bassett, who acknowledged pitching had been the team's weakness past years, is optimistic about her new hurler's future.
"I'm really excited at the command Rylee shows in the circle, her pitch control is good, and she has a knowledge of the game that is uncommon in such a young player," said Bassett.
Still, a veteran presence exists. Shortstop Tori Beauchamp, the team's lone senior, and junior third baseman Jessica Vason not only provide a pair of productive bats - Beauchamp hit .315 and scored 16 runs in 2008 and Vason led the team with a .451 average-but solid infield defense (Vason had a .971 fielding percentage in 2008, Beauchamp .966). Bassett expects the same kind of production, along with veteran leadership from Beauchamp, Vason and the three juniors-Mackinzy Rogers, Alyssa Essington and Jamila Gunn are
"I'm looking to Tori Beauchamp ... and Jessica Vason, Mackinzy Rogers, Alyssa Essington, and Jamila Gunn ... to lead the team," Bassett said. "They've been with me two, three years already, and know what I expect. Already in practice they've stepped up, and are serving as great role models for the rest of the team."
SideBar: At a glance
· Team: Salem softball
· Coach: Stephanie Bassett (third year)
· Last year's record: 3-17
· First game: Friday at the Diamond Classic, vs. Fellowship Christian