Berthoud Weekly Surveyor | Covering all the angles in the Garden Spot

Berthoud softball – a year to grow

By: Dan Karpiel | The Surveyor | August 14, 2020 | Softball

It has long been one of the most consistently successful athletic programs at Berthoud High School but this year, with a shortened schedule in a new conference and a team heavy on youth, the 2020 softball team is facing some unknowns.

“I would say that we will call it a year to grow, but we’re going to compete,” said Berthoud Head Coach, Buddy Kouns, as his team held their first formal practice Monday afternoon at Bein Field. “We’re excited about, we’ve got some good young kids, we’re excited we’re going to play.”

File photo
Berthoud’s Ellie Yuska batting in a game at BHS last fall. Yuska is one of a few returning players to an otherwise very young Lady Spartans squad.

Kouns has added his niece, Berthoud class of 2014 graduate and All-Conference softball player Sami Kouns, to the coaching staff this year. The team also has been benefitting from the presence of All-State alumna Sarah Jorissen, class of 2019, who is now playing collegiately and has been assisting at practices this summer.

Berthoud’s roster this fall will feature a whopping nine freshman, including number-one pitcher Cameron Pickett. Lone senior Ellie Yuska returns to the team this fall to handle duties in centerfield, along with junior Maggie Langer who will play third base while Sierra Pirkey and Gracie Flores will alternate both behind the plate and at shortstop.

“I think it’s really lead by action, by example, I try to be a leader by doing the right thing, I think that goes farther,” said Yuska of her leadership role as the squad’s only senior.

“Maggie will step in and play third base and those are big shoes to fill. We talked to her, there’s nothing to be nervous about, nobody is ever going to replace Ash(lynn Balliet), that’s not what we need you to do, we need you to come in and be Maggie,” Kouns said of Langer. “I don’t have any doubt she’s going to step in and do more than a serviceable job there, she’s going to carry on the long tradition of Berthoud third baseman.”

“Gracie (Flores) is about twice the player this year as she was last year; she’s hitting the ball harder, I expect big things from her this year,” Kouns said and added that splitting Pirkey and Flores at two of the most demanding positions will keep both fresh throughout the season. “We want to be strong behind the plate and we want to be strong up the middle and with these two young ladies, we will be that.”

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Colorado High School Activities Association shortened the softball season by close to one-third as teams will play only 16 games this rather than the usual 23. Furthermore, there will not a regional tournament to narrow the field down to 16 teams for the state tournament, putting pressure not just on the Lady Spartans but on every team to hit the ground running.

“Since we’re down to 16 games and with no regionals, they’re feeding 16 teams straight into the state tournament so you’ve got to take care of business right away; this is a sprint this year, we’re not running a marathon, we’re running a sprit this year so we’ve got to hit the ground running,” Kouns said.

Yuska echoed Kouns’ comments about the challenges the shortened season presents, especially considering Berthoud’s preponderance of youth.“I think we have to take it seriously right away, we have to be going game one, we have to keep up intensity right away,” Yuska said. “Even though we’re young, that’s a not a con for us or be looked at as a negative because we’re so quick on our feet, we’re working so hard since we don’t have the experience we’ve had before.”

Adding even more change to the 2020 season is the fact that Berthoud will playing in the new 4A Longs Peak League, rather than the previous Tri-Valley Conference. This adds a level of uncertainty in facing some new teams including Riverdale Ridge, Severance and Northridge. The absence of powerhouses in Windsor, Holy Family and Erie as conference foes will be welcome, however.

Asked what will define a successful season for the Berthoud softball team, Kouns said, “That we will compete every game and that there is a marked difference between game one and game 16, it’s about growth this year.”

The Lady Spartans will begin their 2020 campaign this Saturday when they welcome Niwot to the Bein Field in Berthoud. First pitch is scheduled for 1 p.m.

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