By Mitch Howard
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
Kyle Mink takes over as of coach of the storied North Laurel program after Becky Osborne’s two years at the helm. What Mink inherits in his first year is a very young North Laurel team with no seniors and six starters to replace from last season’s 23-13 team.
“This year’s team does not have any seniors but we do have some players in Kailin Yantz, McKenzie Mills, Mikayla Vires, and Kayla Huff that have experience playing at the varsity level. Since we will be so young and inexperienced these players will have to help guide them along so the learning curve will not be as long,” Mink said.
Mink expects his team to be strongest with the glove. The offense might take a little longer to come around.
“This team I believe will be very strong defensively. If we can improve our offensive output throughout the season, then hopefully everything will come together when it matters most at the end of season during tournament time,” Mink said.
Most of the work on offense has been doing the fundamental things that you have to do to scratch out runs. With good defense and pitching, a handful of runs can win a lot of games.
“We have really had to work on our base running and bunting offense. We are a team that will apply a lot of pressure to the defense through these areas and try to force them into making mistakes,” Mink said.
With so many new faces, Mink is still looking for the right lineup and batting order. There are some questions that might not be answered until he sees some of the young players in their first varsity action. He does know the more experienced players will be in the lineup, but will have new roles and new positions.
McKenzie Mills moves to centerfield to replace Vanessa Smith. Mills will also be hitting leadoff, a spot that had been owned by Sydney Herrell for years. Kailin Yantz slides over from second base to fill Herrell’s spot at shortstop. Yantz will be the No. 3 hitter. With Yantz switching positions, that leaves second base open for Kayla Huff. Huff is expected to hit in the No. 2 spot. Mikayla Vires saw most of her action in the outfield last season. She will take over on the mound for Megan Baldwin and hit in the cleanup spot.
The other five positions will all be filled by players getting their first taste of full-time varsity action. The No. 5 spot in the batting order could go to seventh grader Olivia Miller. Miller takes over for Emily Sears at third base.
Natasha Colwell, a sophomore, is projected as the sixth hitter and a starter in right field.
Look for Abbey Proffitt to hit seventh and play first base. Hunter Deaton replaces Blake Johnson at catcher and will hit eighth. Madison Asher takes over in left field and rounds out the batting order.
“We also have an abundance of other players that could win one of these spots or be critical role players for us to be successful this year. Madison McDaniel and Jade Williams will be backups to Mikayla on the mound,” Mink said.
Despite the youth and lack of experience, Mink enters his first season optimistic that all of the pieces can fall into place.
“This is an awesome group of girls. They are very close to one another and have bought in to what we are doing. They have worked very hard during the offseason and are working even harder now as we near the start. We are very young but we also are very talented,” Mink said.
The Lady Jaguars have not set specific goals for wins or the way the season will unfold. Their goal is to continue to improve and be playing their best when the games mean the most.
“Our goals are really simple. We want to be playing our best softball when tournament time comes along. Our players also understand that with as many games as we play and the length of our season that it is a marathon not a sprint to the finish. All of our players know they have a role in our success no matter how large or small that role is,” Mink said.