Softball Scots Embark on Goddard's Final Campaign with Focus, Intensity
Monmouth, IL (03/05/2020) — Entering his final spring before retiring at the end of the season, Monmouth College softball coach John Goddard is experiencing something new in his 13th year at the helm.
"This is the most intense and focused preseason practices we've ever had," reported Goddard. "They're more attentive and giving a ton of effort every practice. I don't know if it's because I'm retiring or something else, but I hope it continues once we get into the season."
Goddard is counting on the entire team to continue the progression it made last season, especially in the circle, where five returners are joined by a freshman. Rookie hurler Tori Adolphson (Avon, Ill./Abingdon-Avon) and juniors Cassidy Abbott (Scottville, Ill./Jacksonville Routt) and Hailey Rennick (Washington, Ill./East Peoria) figure to be the Scots' frontline pitchers. Abbott made 17 appearances, threw 73 innings, struck out 31 and won five games last season, all team highs, while Rennick appeared in 16 games and fanned 23 in 54 innings of work.
"Those three I would define as power pitchers," said Goddard, whose top qualification for his staff is to throw strikes. "Cassidy is the typical power pitcher. When she's on, she's untouchable. Hailey is very consistent and steady. You know what you're going to get out of her game-in and game-out. Tori is the unknown for now. She probably has the most potential to be great, but as a freshman she'll have some 'learning moments.' They all could relieve, but I have three others in the bullpen who fit the mold of what I want from a reliever - they throw strikes and don't walk batters."
The bullpen, with senior Zelinda Taylor (Springfield, Ill./Rochester) and sophomores Jenna Pauley (Moline, Ill./Alleman) - who also hit .353 last year as a first baseman/designated player - and Rebecca Merletti (Kenosha, Wis./Harborside), gives Goddard a security blanket for the late innings. Pauley threw the third-most innings last spring (53.1) in 15 appearances, Merletti saw action 12 times and the veteran Taylor posted the team's best ERA in 34.1 innings.
"They're all spinners," smiled Goddard. "They won't record a ton of strikeouts, but they throw strikes and won't walk batters. That's perfect for a reliever. They'll keep the hitters off-balance and make them put the ball in play. Their job will be to come in late, shut down the opponent and log the save. As a veteran whose been around four years, I know I can count on Zelinda to also start if needed."
Sophomore Jessica Pauley (Moline, Ill./Alleman) - the sister of Jenna - will form the other half of the battery. The catcher hit a robust, team-leading .385 and drove in 20 runs in her inaugural campaign.
"All of Jessica's tools improved over the course of her freshman year," said Goddard. "I've never had any catcher as good defensively as her. She's got a great softball mind, a cannon for an arm and blocks everything. I'm really expecting a lot from her this year."
First base could be a rotation with any of a multitude of possible candidates. Juniors Brittney Enos (Fisher, Ill./Fisher) - who hit .326 last season - and Savannah Ball (East Peoria, Ill./East Peoria) split time at first in 2019 and will likely do the same in the early season. Enos is also slated to see outfield time with an abundance of first basemen that includes newcomer Alex Chamberlin (Canton, Ill./Canton).
"We've got some options at first," smiled Goddard. "Jenna Pauley is an exceptional left-handed bat and could play some first if she's not pitching. Alex is a great defender and has a magnet for a glove."
It's a logjam at second, where junior Abby Tucker (Metamora, Ill./Metamora) and freshman Kassidy Johnson (Petersburg, Ill./PORTA) have the early inside track. Morgan Pizur-Kranc returns to the field for her junior season after an injury sidelined her a year ago and freshman Addison Riley (Illinois City, Ill./Rockridge) also adds depth to the mix.
"Every one of them brings something to the table," explained Goddard. "None of them has everything. Addison is pushing the entire group and could break into the lineup. It's all going to depend on who's hitting and who's fielding."
The pool isn't as deep at shortstop, but it's just as talented with juniors Alexis Opel (Morton, Ill./Morton) and Katie Droste (Biggsville, Ill./West Central) - a transfer - battling for time. Opel hit .275 and scored 18 runs last spring while Droste posted a .245 average with 19 RBIs in 2019 for Carl Sandburg College.
"It's been a few years since I've had two shortstops," admitted Goddard. "Alexis started to come on last year and I expect her to only get better. Katie has the best speed on the team. She'll be playing a lot in some capacity whether it's at short or coming off the bench to run."
A fixture at third base the last two seasons, Alison Trettin (Manito, Ill./Midwest Central), has the nod in the preseason after a sophomore campaign that saw her hit .302 with three home runs. The junior is getting a serious challenge from freshman Sara LaHood (East Peoria, Ill./East Peoria).
"Sarah is a very good defensive third baseman," reported Goddard. "Offensively, she and Alison will probably be our power hitters."
Speaking of hitting, Goddard has ample bats at his disposal and nearly anyone on the team could pinch hit or fill the designated player role. Junior Megan Corniels (Yorkville, Ill./Yorkville) handled a good portion of the DP duties last spring, hitting .288 with a pair of home runs and nine RBIs, but don't count out senior Becca Gallis (Kernville, Calif./Kern Valley), who could return to the lineup in a hitting role after an injury sidelined the former catcher in 2019.
"I have a plethora of able bats," smiled Goddard. "We could use Gallis, Corniels or anyone who's not in the lineup as a DP, pinch-hitter or pinch-runner. We've got good bats and good speed up and down the roster, but obviously they can't all be on the field at the same time. Anyone not on the field had better be ready to step up on a moment's notice. We have plenty of options for every situation."
While the offense and infield has plenty of options and experience, the outfield could see new faces, where only leftfielder Laura Dulee (Bloomington, Ill./U-High) and rightfielder Lauren Sperry (Alexis, Ill./United) - both seniors - return. Dulee drove in 14 runs a season ago while hitting .290. A .256 hitter as a junior, Sperry saw action in 20 of the Scots' 36 games. Corniels could spell Dulee in left and Enos - when she's not at first - could share time in right with Sperry.
It will be a new face in center, where freshman Macey Bland (Galesburg, Ill./Galesburg) will share the position with sophomore Allie Ramlo (Tremont, Ill./Tremont), who makes the move from second to the outfield this spring.
"Macey and Allie are very comparable," said Goddard. "They both have about the same speed and the same arm strength. Macey has the edge on outfield experience, but Allie is picking it up very quickly."
With a 24-player roster, Goddard won't be hurting for options anywhere on the lineup card. His biggest challenge just may be deciding on a lineup. Regardless of who starts and who comes off the bench, Goddard is counting on the science of softball to come through with the winning formula.
"The team chemistry has been exceptional and that's the one variable you just can't coach," said Goddard, who has seen it all in his nearly 20 years as an assistant and now head coach of the Scots. "Success will come from a true team effort. The pitchers won't strike everyone out, but they have the defense behind them that will make the plays. We'll use our bench extensively. If we can get on base, we will score. Potentially, we have a lot of run-scoring ability."
The team may be hard-pressed to put up the record offensive numbers the 2014 team did when they slammed 31 home runs and collected 190 RBIs in 39 games, but Goddard is telling his charges there's no pressure to produce records or "be spectacular" in his final season.
"This is just another season, but it may be a little different because it is my last one," said Goddard of his pending retirement. "Hopefully, I'll be able to keep my emotions in check. The players don't need to win games for me. They need to win for themselves and the seniors. I want them to have fun and play without pressure. That's the best parting gift they can give me, to play to the best of their ability and enjoy the game."