Changes, youth have Unionville softball off to uneven start in 2011

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New coach, only one senior have Indians seeing ups and downs in early going

By Mike McGann, Editor, UnionvilleTimes.com
Changing coaches just days before the start of the season can be disruptive to any high school team, so it’s probably not a shock that Unionville High School’s softball team is off to a 2-3 start.

Factor in that the Indians have just one senior in the everyday lineup, and playing anything like .500 ball in the early going might even be a surprise.

Still, Kristen McCoy, tabbed to step up and replace John Walsh, who had to step away from coaching because of family issues in March, sees a lot to be excited about when she looks at her Indians and the opportunity she has with the program.

“I’m just thrilled to coach softball,” McCoy said. McCoy knows the local softball scene well, having played high school ball at nearby Avon Grove and in college at West Chester University.

And while the team is largely made up of juniors, McCoy, who was previously the junior varsity coach has less personal experience with her young team than you might think: most of the key players were good enough to play varsity as sophomores. Like 2010, Unionville looks to have just one senior regular: Stephanie Hammond — who has been the core of the lineup in the early season.

Beyond Hammond, it’s been a passel of juniors — the most of whom played varsity in 2010.

“It’s a young team, but a veteran one,” McCoy said.

Junior Colleen Beckman has been the ace of the pitching staff, although sophomore Taylor Garris and impressive freshman Amy Large figure to get innings on the mound, giving Unionville a staff that McCoy says she thinks is “very promising.”

As has been the case for the first five games, Hammond, a switch-hitter who moves from first base to the outfield this year, should be the heart of the batting order. But a couple of junior middle infielders, Sammy Carlino and Colleen Hoge, have been key contributors, giving the Indians stability up the middle and production in the lineup. Freshman Kate Mims has already developed as a key contributor in the early going.

But with a young team — and one that has had to make a sudden transition with a new coach (technically, McCoy remains the acting coach) — the games have been kind of up and down, as this past week illustrates.

Monday, the Indians dropped a tough 10-0 game to West Chester East — McCoy noted it was one of those games where her team hit the ball hard, but right at East players, while East’s shot seemed to fall in.

Wednesday, Unionville bounced right back, dismantling Great Valley, 16-5, in a five-inning game cut short by mercy rules.

Steph Hammond went 2 for 2 with a double and a triple, 3 walks, 3 runs scored and an RBI. Hoge went 3 for 3 with 2 runs scored and 2 RBIs. Carlino had a home run, scored 2 runs, and had 2 RBIs. Mims went 3 for 3 with a triple, 2 runs scored and 2 RBIs.  Kelley Christian hit a double with 1 at bat. Large pitched all five innings with three strikeouts.

But Thursday, Unionville dropped a tough game to Oxford, 6-4 — a heartbreaking loss as the Hornets scored four runs in the bottom of the seventh to win the game.

Beckman turned in another strong performance on the mound pitching all seven innings with five strike outs and just one walk.  Hammond went 2 for 4 with 2 runs scored.  Sammy Carlino went 1 for 3 with a double, an RBI, and a run scored.

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