By Phil Gibson
The Pinson Valley baseball and softball teams are gearing up for their 2013 campaigns.
Shane Chappell, who arrived at Pinson Valley during the offseason as the new baseball coach, tries to steer clear of big predictions, instead trying to keep his players focused on daily improvement.
“We try not to think too much about expectations,” Chappell said. “Just focus on each day. We’re still early in what we’re doing and just finding ways to improve in all aspects.”
Allison Svoboda, Pinson Valley’s new softball coach, is focused on improving from last year and making a dent in the area playoffs.
“My expectation is for them to have confidence in themselves,” Svoboda said. “I’m looking for us to make it to area, finish first or second there, and then move on to go as far as they want to go.”
Both coaches will be looking to their senior leadership to set the pace for the other players and make an impact on the field
. One of those leaders is Pinson Valley senior and Auburn commitment pitcher Bailey Chesser.
“He’s definitely going to be one of our top arms,” Chappell said. “He’s a power arm with good secondary stuff. He’s got a good breaking ball, pretty good changeup. He’s a guy who’s going to help lead us on the mound.”
The Indians have top talent on offense as well.
“We’ve got a center fielder who’s probably one of the better center fielders I’ve seen, Scott Falkinburg,” Chappell said. “I have high expectations for him, defensively and with what he can do at the plate.”
Beyond individual standouts, Chappell will be counting on a senior-laden roster to provide maturity and leadership for his team.
“The thing for us, it’s hard to pick out a lot of guys who are standout players because we’ve got 14 seniors and they’re all going to contribute,” Chappell said. “They’re all going to lead us in the direction we need to go.”
On the softball side, Svoboda will be counting on her seniors for leadership as well.
“We have two seniors, Amber Howard (first base and pitcher) and Lauren Tralongo (outfield and pitcher),” Svoboda said. “They’ve been really good at leading the team and helping everybody. They’re almost like having another coach on the sideline. They’re there to help me with whatever as well as helping their teammates.”
Chappell spoke highly of his pitching staff as a defining feature of this Indians team.
“Our defense, I think, is going to be our strength,” he said. “We’re deep on the mound, which allows us to pitch a lot of guys. We don’t rely on one or two or three guys to carry us through. We can go deep with our staff.”
On the softball team, team chemistry will be a major factor in determining success in 2013. Svoboda is pleased with the way her team has come together in the offseason.
“Our team is really close, so I believe that helps a lot,” Svoboda said. “I believe that if everybody gets along and is together, then they can work together more as a team.”
The baseball and softball teams face different challenges. For Chappell’s team, complacency is a potential threat for a team that is used to success.
“The biggest challenge for us is going to be getting content,” Chappell said. “When we have success, we have to stay in the same mindset as we have all through the fall with our workouts, which is to be hungry and being able to understand that you haven’t done anything yet. I think we’ve got good enough leadership that we can handle that part.”
For Svoboda’s team, escaping the past means forgetting about previous disappointments and focusing on this season.
“Worrying about the past too much (is a challenge),” Svoboda said. “I think they think too much on how they used to be instead of looking forward.”
Along with the challenges each team faces, they have also made some vital improvements during the offseason. Svoboda has been most happy with the change in mindset she’s seen in her team.
“Our most improvement has been in our attitudes,” she said. “They’ve bonded a lot. We actually had an athletic period before, which we’d never had before, and I think that really helped them come together.”
The baseball team opens the season Feb. 18 at home against Auburn and Smiths Station. Games are at 3:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. The softball team opens the season Feb. 19 at home against Clay-Chalkville at 5 p.m.