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2014 KENTUCKY STANDARD SOFTBALL PREVIEW: Tigers learning under new coach

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Bardstown Tigers Softball Preview

By Peter W. Zubaty, Sports Editor

Shawn Boggs returned to coaching Bardstown softball this year, and the move already paid dividends when the Tigers opened the season with a win.

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It was the first time since 2003 — before Boggs’ previous tenure as Tiger coach — that Bardstown started the year with a win, and went a long way toward helping build a new culture around the long-struggling program.

“We’ve hit a couple of rough games lately,” she said, “but we’re working hard. They have a ‘never-give-up’ attitude.”

The Tigers are 1-4 overall following a 15-0 loss Monday at Hart County, part of the growing pains Boggs said Bardstown will have to fight through as they adjust to their new coach.

Boggs coached the Tiger softball program from 2004-06 and is a fixture at the school, so the players’ familiarity with her has helped in implementing her system.

“They know me,” she said. “They’ve done really well trying to adjust to this new style.”

The Tigers are trying to get away from being free swingers at the plate and concentrate more on small ball and moving runners along the basepaths while keeping a focus on fundamentals.

“We’re not big hitters,” Boggs said.

As a result, the Tigers will have to lean heavily on players such as senior co-captain Brianna Rogers, the Bardstown shortstop.

“I’m looking to her for lots of things,” Boggs said, most notably leadership. “Her experience is going to be so valuable for us.”

Also playing a key leader role is junior co-captain Jazz Kimberland, who’ll play third base. Boggs raves about Kimberland’s positive, infectious demeanor who is able to keep the team upbeat during the rough patches in the schedule. Sophomore outfielder Molly Pohlman is the team’s other co-captain, and she’ll do some pitching as well, as she and junior Abby Green have gotten JV innings.

Handling most of the innings in the circle will be longtime starter Haley Mattingly, a sophomore.

“Haley has been our go-to pitcher,” Boggs said. “She’s really turning the tide there at becoming smarter on the mound and controlling her emotions.”

Senior Tori Beatty is a four-year starter at catcher, and she’ll be called on to help lead the team along with classmates Suzanne Taylor and Olivia Hutchins. Senior second baseman Meghan Kelty has gotten better at playing small ball and moving runners, Boggs said.

Since Boggs left in 2006 to finish her graduate degree work, Bardstown has had three different coaches. The one holdover through the turmoil has been longtime assistant coach Howie Wickliffe, giving the returning players a familiar face they can go to for mentoring.

“The girls have been through a lot,” Boggs said. “He brings that continuity, that constant that they’ve needed.”

Boggs said they’re building it from the ground floor, piece-by-piece, with a focus on fundamentals and putting the team before self.

“I want them to see this as fun and challenging,” she said.

Bardstown is next in action Tuesday at Washington County.