The Perryville softball program will enter this season with a target on their back, something the Lady Pirates haven’t had to deal with for a long time. That’s because Perryville is the reigning Class 3, District 1 champion, at least in theory.
That is not the mindset that head coach Dustin Wengert and his team will enter the year with.
“The one thing that we are stressing this year, is that we are not defending a district title,” Wengert said. “To defend something means that someone has to take it away from you and we will always be the 2018 district champions. Now we have to forget about it, move on and try to win the district this year.”
That first step towards success this fall was taken on Tuesday as Perryville took to the field for their preseason camp, one that will focus mainly on defensive habits and ironing out that side of the game.
“The goal for the end of camp on Thursday is to be comfortable with where we are and can focus more on the offensive side of things when the first regular practice takes place, and do more scrimmage, and live pitching-type things.”
Wengert is comfortable about where the team is defensively, but they will have some changes behind the pitcher. Among the graduated players were third baseman Anna Besand, and starting catcher Kylee Rhyne, which according to Wengert, are probably the two most important positions defensively.
“They will be hard to replace,” Wengert said. “But we do have several girls that are coming back out again, who can fill in nicely. Once we get them up to speed with how we like to do things, we will be able to pick up right where we left off.”
That is the thought process for the team as a whole because Wengert feels like the team underachieved last year during the regular season as they went 6-13 in 2018 before reeling off a trio of wins to win the district tournament.
“We found it at the right time,” Wengert said. “But I felt we could have won a few more games.
The last two weeks or so we started playing the kind of softball that it would take to be competitive in our district. “
Those struggles should be a thing of the past as Wengert can see a different level of comfort into the brand of softball that Perryville can showcase in 2019.
“Some of the girls have talked to me and said that they know what to expect from me in my second year, and they kind of know how I’m going to act,” Wengert said.
“There’s a level of comfort there that just wasn’t there last season.”
With that new comfort, gives Wengert and his team the ability to be themselves. So because of this attitude, Perryville has adopted the motto, “own it” when it comes to their play this season.
Who are they exactly? That remains to be seen, but Wengert has high hopes.
“We are a very balanced team,” Wengert said. “When you have speed up top with Ann Marie [Simpson] and power in the middle with [Makayla] Brown and [Makayla] Burns who can hit it over the fence if they get the right pitch, then I think we can be a very successful team. But we are taking it one game at a time and right now we are focused on our season opener at Doniphan and no farther.”
In other words, district repeats can wait.