Last season the Knights were virtually untouchable until the playoffs. They ten-run mercy ruled just about everybody on their way to a perfect conference record. They just seemed to run out of steam at the end of the season losing four of their last seven games.
Coming into this season that is something on the mind of the coaching staff.
"We've been able to get younger players a chance at some bats and some playing time so that's always a good thing," said coach Chad Hoobler after Thursday's game against Grove City where pitcher Trinity Edge struck out six batters in three innings of wor. The team exploded for 15 runs on offense invoking the mercy rule.
"Trinity threw like Trinity throws, she was on, so ... I feel pretty good about the season," Hoobler continued.
Earlier in the week they trekked up to Titusville and dominated that game as well, though it went the distance.
Titusville coach Megan Green assessed the Knight's after their 9-1 loss. "They are an older experienced team and they've got a seasoned pitcher that works hard in the off season, as well as puts in the time in season. She gets the time she puts in, she really does and she sees the rewards for that."
Green, who has been a coach for nearly 20 years now and was part of a state championship game team as a player, said it's tough sometimes going deep into the playoffs with a dominant pitcher who all of a sudden gets hit. As an observation she noted that ... "Sometimes your defense can get lax and sit back and rest on whatever the pitcher is doing."
Hoobler is also aware of this, especially after last year running a perfect record into a non-conference game against a tough Reynolds squad and lost. Though they battled to the district finals that game was the chink in the armor that he is hoping to avoid this year.
"We're going to have some games where we're going to have to battle, and we're just going to have to keep getting better.... two games in, I'm pretty pleased," Hoobler said.
It's depth and working together. Edge's pitches are keeping the ball in reasonable play when the opponents even get a bat on the ball. The infield is experienced and ready. The outfield's biggest concern will be staying alert for when the ball reaches them.
Offensively, Hoobler's toughest job is putting together the right situational line ups.
"We're getting to the point where we can hit one through nine, so that's always a good problem to have. It's hard to figure out who is going to hit where, because they all hit. and they're all willing to do their job."
They are 2-0 and not really tested, but Hoobler is getting his bench in the games as much as he can to add depth to the line up. Two years ago Franklin's all-star catcher got injured and a young Kirsten Hicks stepped in to do a great job. She is now one of the seasoned veterans and Thursday took a hard pitch to the leg that hobbled her.
"That's nothing new to Kirstem, Kirsten is a ball magnet, so she'll bounce back, she is a hard nosed kid," Hoobler said.
On Thursday against Grove City Sydni Hoobler, the coach's senior daughter struggled at her first two at bats but showed enough poise in her second to come away with a walk. She ended up scoring in the inning.
She then got ahold of one in the third inning with two on and rounded the bases of an inside the park homer.
Nearly the whole starting lineup had an RBI on the day. Abby Boland had a triple and so did Edge. Rilee Hanna and Hicks had doubles.
"We're just working on making adjustments, we're going to see different pitchers and we have to learn to adjust early in the count so we can be effective," Coach Hoobler said as they move forward on the season.