School may be out in Bryan County, but there is still some learning going on. This learning experience has not been accomplished sitting in a desk, in a classroom with a textbook, but on softball diamonds throughout the area.
Girls hoping to make the Bryan County Lady Skins fastpitch squad have played games throughout the summer along with other area teams and just completed their 12th and final game with a win over Portal last week to give them six wins for the summer.
Among those involved in this learning period are new Head Coach Al Butler and his assistants Doug Foxworth and Dan Kauffman. They are replacing last year’s retiring coaching trio of Kim Covington, Karen Lynn and Robin Butler.
"Our main goal this summer was to watch and learn where this team is fundamentally and evaluate the individual talent level of these girls," Butler said. "We are pleased with what we saw."
As at any level of play, there is usually a team leader that will step up and lead by example and simply brings comfort to a coach just by their presence. Butler was quick to recognize that he has such a leader.
"One of our biggest leaders this summer has been Samantha Howard," he said. "Samantha is an all-around great person on and off the field, leads by example and is always eager to learn more and do whatever it takes to get better. Those qualities are ones that some of these younger girls can strive for as they continue to work and learn this game," said Butler.
This year’s squad will have some big shoes to fill when compared to last year’s Elite Eight squad from state, but Butler looks to this upcoming season with much promise.
"We do have some young girls, but some of them are begging to step up and showing some good things," he said. "We have two ninth graders that I was impressed with in Tiffany Howard, who pitched some for us, and Jeanna Schuman, who caught some for Samantha when she pitched. My main task will be to fill some of the positions left vacant by graduating seniors. Some of these girls will have to step up and possibly play a position that they are not accustomed to playing."
"Even though we are a fairly young squad, I can tell they have been taught the game and well-coached in previous years," Butler continued. "These girls will put the ‘ball in play’ and their desire to improve and learn is good, and that is what we will build upon for the upcoming season."