By MICHAEL KELLY
Recorder Sports Staff
CANAJOHARIE -- There is confidence and optimism this preseason for the Canajoharie softball team -- as well as a healthy dose of skepticism.
Fresh off an up-and-down season a year ago in the Western Athletic Conference, the Lady Cougars enter the 2013 campaign with a few key parts back and several capable youngsters filling in the spots left open after several players graduated from the 2012 club.
"It's definitely been hard adjusting (with all the new players)," says returning pitcher Shyanna Logan. "But I think we'll make a good adjustment with it."
Logan, a junior, is one of the few Canajoharie players with a clear-cut role for head coach Bridget Anderson going into the season -- and being cooped up in the Canajoharie High School gymnasium for most of the preseason has not done the squad too many favors.
"We've just been trying to get positions figured out," says Anderson. "The girls are working hard and we have a solid returning infield, so we're looking for outfielders -- but it's hard to determine whether they can catch a pop fly in a gym."
"It's tough to get a feel for everyone's skill level in the gym," adds senior Megan Balfe, "and we have quite a few young players."
Balfe is one of the two seniors on the club, which is laden with juniors and sophomores. Physically, the Lady Cougars look the part of a young team -- "We have a lot of short kids," Balfe says, laughing -- but Canajoharie wants to take advantage of its best attribute: Speed.
"We have to be quick, we have to be," says junior shortstop Bri Slater. "Last year, we really didn't do too much with [our quickness] and it hurt us."
"As long as we're fast, we'll be OK," Balfe says.
With the team's graduated players, the Lady Cougars' offense lost much of its pop, but Anderson is planning to take advantage of her team's fast-moving legs. During a recent practice, the Lady Cougars spent ample time working on base-running drills and small-ball necessities, like bunting.
"Putting the ball in play," is what Anderson lists as the team's top offensive objective. "We're a very quick team and we lost some power from last year, but we'll make up for it with quickness."
With such a young team, the Lady Cougars have a lot of room to grow. Already this preseason, Canajoharie thinks it has made significant improvements.
"From the first week to now, we've gotten a lot better," says Balfe. "Things are coming together."
When things get started next week for the Lady Cougars for real, Canajoharie's goal is a simple one.
"Start off strong with a win," says Slater. "That would really boost the confidence."