It’s been a combined 1,349 days since the Franklin-Simpson baseball and softball teams took the field. Their last games they played were in the 4th Region Tournament at Western Kentucky University. Both teams are anxious to get back on the diamond.
The head coaches are Matt Wilhite, who will be in his second season as head baseball coach without coaching a game yet and Todd Caudill, who will be in his fifth season with an overall record of 55-56 with two 13th District Tournament championships and two consecutive years in the semifinal game of the 4th Region Tournament.
“We have a lot of players that have a lot of experience playing, even though we didn’t get to play last season,” Lady Cats head coach Todd Caudill said. “We have a lot of girls that’s got some pop on their bats and they are excited and ready to get out there and play. Excited to see what they can do for us this season.”
“The kids are tired of practicing. They are ready to play some games,” Wildcats head coach Matt Wilhite said. “We got a JV game or two played and our five or six varsity guys are ready to start so they are eager to go. We got a lot of things to work on and we are prepared to this point. Now it’s time to see what other things we need to work on.”
Both coaching staffs will have to use patience early on during the season as neither team has had any playing time together. Both teams want to win but the goal is to get to where they need to be ready for the district and possibly region and state tournaments. It all starts with pitching and defense.
“My first three years, we relied on our one horse in Madison Davis,” Caudill said. “Now we have a staff of pitchers with Hanna Arthur who has done a good job of starting games for us. Allie Utley and her sister Maddie are a nice change of pace. Hanna locates it on the corners while Allie pitches with power and speed. Maddie brings a slow speed change up, 30 to 40 miles per hour, and that will make it hard for batters to stay off the front foot and pop it up or a weak ground ball. It’s a good combination of the three pitchers.”
“The biggest thing for us is to just play defense,” Wilhite said. “We boot balls, that’s on us and we will work on that. Pitching wise, we are going to try to get batters out in three pitches or less. Keeps from running out pitch count up and not walking people, which is the worst part of the game. I said we are not going to blow the ball past guys. We have enough decent stuff to make them swing the bat and hit ground balls and make us make plays.”
Both teams will be fundamental when it comes to swinging their bats. They will utilize bunts, hit and run situations, finding a way to bring in runners in scoring position but the main thing is just putting the ball in play where anything can happen.
Both teams will play a lot of home and away series with numerous teams in the 4th Region and have a very competitive non-region schedule but the season boils down to their six 13th District games and the district tournament at Russellville High School. Their goal is to win the district and region tournaments to qualify for the state tournament where they will be one of 16 teams vying for a state championship.
“This is going to be the most competitive this district has been in a long time,” Caudill said. “Logan County has Shelby Gettings and Russellville has Amiyah Collier and Todd County Central has a very much improved pitcher as well. So we need to get these girls ready for tough district games and that is by playing a very tough schedule that will test us and show what we need to improve on. We have a tough non district schedule that will test us and get us ready for the district as well as the region.”
“As a coach, if you want to put together a bunch of games that will not make you any better but you will have a winning record and get put out in the first round of the district tournament, then what’s the point,” Wilhite said. “We are going to play some good teams and the only way to get better is to see the best teams around. PRP, Hopkinsville, Danville and teams in our region. The only way to get better is to play these teams and let’s see what we got.”
Caudill will have assistant coaches Trent Coffee and Caitlin Crawford back with him this season along with a new addition to the staff in Derek Smith. Wilhite brings back the same assistant coaching staff he would have had from last season: Colton and Eli Hurt, Landon Satterly and former head coach Craig Delk will help the team whenever he can.