Schuler fits well at first for Pats

April 13, 2004|JILL ERWIN

STANFORD - Last year, Becky Schuler watched most Lincoln County softball games from the bench. This year, she's got a starring role at first base.

Schuler, a senior, has moved into the position vacated by the graduated Tiffany Allen and has played error-free ball at first for the 3-3 Patriots.

"I think my defense is real strong out there," Schuler said. "I help other players. I back them up, I try to cheer them up when they're down, things like that."

Before this year, she had to do that cheering from the bench. Schuler said it wasn't that big of a deal, saying she understood the coaching staff's decision.


But that doesn't mean she's not thoroughly enjoying this season.

"This year is all that matters," Schuler said. "I hope we go to district and win it. I think our team's real good."

One of only two seniors

First-year Lincoln coach Pam Young hasn't had any problems in putting Schuler at first. One of only two seniors on the Lincoln roster - Lindsey Jaggers is the other - Schuler said she doesn't feel any pressure to take on any more of a leadership role than any other player.

But Young said she definitely looks to Schuler for leadership.

"I expect her to pick the team up," Young said.

One thing that eases that responsibility on Schuler is the number of young, but experienced, players the Patriots have, including Jana Crabtree, Jenny Jones and Jenny Ralston.

"There's no pressure on me at all," Schuler said. "I do feel like I need to be a leader, but we're all leaders in some way."

Some of Schuler's leadership comes from her defensive play at first base. Young specifically remembers a play Schuler made in the bottom of the ninth inning in Lincoln's season-opening win over Garrard County.

Garrard had a runner on third and one out when Sara Carrier lined a shot to Schuler. She made the grab, keeping the runner at third, and Crabtree closed the game out one batter later.

"She's been a big force for us at first base," Young said. "That girl hit a shot and that probably would have broken our backs. She's doing a very good job in the infield reading the ball off the bats."

She has to be ready for Ralston's throws

Schuler has to react not only to the batters, but also to Ralston, the team's catcher. Ralston takes more risks than some, throwing to first often to try to catch runners off base.

Having Schuler's left-handed glove over there makes the tag easier, but Young said Ralston and the Patriots would feel comfortable with her over there no matter what.

"It helps, but I think if she was right-handed she would still make the plays she's making," Young said. "I've just got that much confidence in her, and our team has confidence in her. Our catcher throws when ordinarily people don't throw back. We have confidence in Becky that she's going to be there to catch it and it's not going out in right field somewhere."

Both Young and Schuler admit the offense has taken a little longer to catch up.

"She did an excellent job (Thursday against Wayne County), bunting around and doing what I asked her to do in the box," Young said. "She did a great job of getting a run in for us. She's very coachable and she's done everything I've asked of her. She responds really well."

Schuler has responded well to being a contributing member of the team. She said part of what she loves most about being on Lincoln's team is how well the girls play together.

"We really make smart plays and we have our heart in the game. We're here to have fun," Schuler said. "No worries."

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