GREENVILLE — To say the Greenville Yellow Jackets softball were young and inexperienced would not be an exaggeration.
Fielding no seniors and just a handful of juniors the Yellow Jackets faced a rebuilding season in 2012. In the end, they finished the season 12-23, but a group of hardworking girls has given coach Tom Hallock a lot optimism for the future.
“We had our ups and downs as young teams do. I was very proud of the way they handled the adversity and learned along the way,” Hallock said. “I thought there were times during the season that we did some extremely good things and there were times when we played like we were really young,”
Part of the adversity faced included the loss of two starters during the regular season. It caught the team off guard as they struggled toward the last part of the season. Despite the late season adversity and struggles, Hallock said his team kept focus and played hard.
“Down the stretch the girls spirits were great and they were working hard,” he said. “They were working on the right things and doing the right things. Working with a young team was the biggest thing for us. It was a really valuable learning year for us and I think the future looks bright.”
In addition to improving play on the field, the Yellow Jackets became a better situational team with a better understanding of the game.
“I think our understanding of the game and handling certain situations grew as the year went by,” Hallock said. “Our communication on and off the field improved a lot down the stretch. The things you would like to see from a young team — that growth and development — I think happened for us.”
First baseman and pitcher Nikota Howe was named to the All-district first team and earned an O-K White honorable mention for her monster season. She was also named the team MVP.
Howe hit .468, with 52 hits, seven doubles, three triples and six home runs. She knocked in 44 runs, scored 41 runs and had a .528 on base percentage.
“She had a fantastic season for us. She was very deserving of the accolades she received,” Hallock said.
Beth Gantz earned the team’s most dedicated award. In part because of her move from third base (played there as a freshman) to centerfield this year.
“She did a terrific job out in center for us and made some great catches,” Hallock said. “It was one of those things we asked and she said she would switch despite working a lot at third base in the offseason.”
Kae Page earned most improved honors.
“She started the season playing second base and a little shortstop,” Hallock said. “She ended the season as our starting shortstop. She was able to make adjustments during the season to attack the slow rollers and make some plays in the holes. She made some nice plays this year.”
Lizzy Niemiec and Howe both earned coaches recognition honors.
“Lizzy had a fantastic season for us. She hit near .360 and led the team with nine doubles and was second in RBIs,” Hallock said.
Sarah Newhouse, a freshman, became the Yellow Jackets starting pitcher after some personnel changes late in the year.
“She was thrown into a tough spot. She was brought up to the varsity and was playing in the outfield,” Hallock said. “Through necessity she had to pitch. She came in, threw strikes and gave us all she had. She battled through a tough situation this year.”
Hallock has high hopes for the future. Most of his team will continue their development with summer travel softball.
“Most of the girls are playing travel ball and we will probably do some individual stuff,” he said. “They are getting out and playing.”