Most good high school softball teams are built around solid batteries.
In other words, the combined effectiveness of a pitcher and catcher. You can't have one without the other.
“If your pitching and catching is solid, you have any kind of decent coaching, you should win more games than you lose, and with a little luck you should win much more than you lose,” said Ponderosa coach Toby Tabola.
“It starts there,” he continued. “You can't forget the catcher. You can't have these great pitchers without a really good person to receive the ball. There have been times where I have not been able to allow a pitcher to throw a particular pitch because it's too hard for the catcher to handle.”
Tabola's daughter, Caley Mitchell, is head coach at Castle View.
“I absolutely believe in the importance of a great pitcher and catcher,” said Mitchell. “If you have a solid hitting team and good defense you may be still able to win games, but you won't go further than that. The defense can only do so much if you don't have a pitcher to keep girls off base.
“Catchers are just as important. Your pitcher can be great, but if you don't have a catcher that can handle her, you are going to have problems. The catcher commands the field, she needs to be heads-up on every play, as well as be a coach for the pitcher.”
Castle View and Ponderosa have two of the league's top pitchers in the Sabercats' junior Savannah Heebner and the Mustangs' Ally Power, also a junior.
Heebner won 13 games with 145 strikeouts and a 1.49 earned run average. Power won 14 games last season with 208 strikeouts and a 1.69 ERA.
Junior Sarah Carpenter will be Power's battery-mate after taking over the starting catching duties late last season. Senior Morgan Trujillo will be behind the plate catching Heebner.
Catchers are the team leaders, setting the tone for the team and often calling timeouts to visit with pitchers to avoid a visit to the mound by a coach.
“I would say the catcher is the leader on the field,” said Power. “Yeah, you listen to her. It's very important to have confidence in your catcher.
“Talks between my catcher and I are really team decisions. We discuss it and normally agree with the changes. Sarah did her job well last season.”
Trujillo admits it is sometime hard for a catcher to be a leader.
“In the beginning it was a challenge,” said Trujillo. “Then I realized I was involved in every single play, I've really got to step up my leadership role. From that point on, I love doing it.
“Sometimes girls on your team just hate being told what to do. In reality you are just trying to say `let's get back on track and we need to come together as a team.'
“Savannah has always been a stud,” continued Trujillo. “She's getting looked at a lot by big schools. I look at myself and say she couldn't be where she is today if she didn't have a catcher. I'm just not talking about me but every other catcher that's she's experienced along the way. Without that catcher, she would be pitching to the backstop.”
Castle View and Ponderosa are expected to be two of the Continental League's strongest teams this season. Defending league champion Rock Canyon returns seven starters and the Jaguars are the team to beat. Mountain Vista, Legend and Douglas County should have a say in which team wins the league title.