The Ottumwa High softball team was scheduled to begin practice for the 2014 season on Monday, but stormy conditions prevailed throughout the afternoon. The inability to get on the field highlights one major difference between high school baseball and softball programs in the state: baseball teams get three weeks of practice before the season starts, while softball teams only get two. OHS head coach Frank Huston said he wishes he could have that third week, but the situation is nothing new.
“You say it as a softball coach with green-eyed envy, baseball gets a nice three-week time, “Huston said. “I think volleyball gets a three-week time. We’re very similar to basketball, in which we have two weeks. That’s the cards we’re dealt.
“This is a busy time of year (as well). We’ve got a lot of our players that are very successful in track. That’s the way it always is, and you just have to deal with it.”
In his 41st season in Ottumwa, Huston’s task is to reload a team that lost nine senior starters to graduation. Those players led OHS to a period of sustained greatness, but Huston thinks there’s still a lot of talent in the program.
“We had an outstanding group of players. They had outstanding success at the state level for three of the four years that they all were starters,” he said. “We knew the day was coming. They’ve graduated and moved on, we’ve moved on, and we’re looking forward to the people we have in our program at this time. Many of them would’ve been very capable of playing in starting roles under normal circumstances.”
The Bulldogs do bring back three key contributors from last season. Shortstop Kassidi Henderson made third team all-state as a sophomore, catcher Alexis Winn was an all-conference selection, and pitcher Megan Robertson went 11-0 as the team’s #2 starter. Robertson faces the pressure of being the #1 pitcher in 2014, but Huston thinks the transition will be fairly simple.
“She pitched in the state tournament, a few innings for us,” Huston said. “After we would lose an opening (conference) game, she came back and won a big conference game for us. I think the mental aspect is not going to be that much different for her.”
Ottumwa opens the season at home on Friday, May 30, with a doubleheader against Mount Pleasant.