Trojans look to defense for help as they prepare for the new season

Denley Heller pitches for Armstrong-Potomac in a game last season. 

ARMSTRONG – The Armstrong-Potomac softball team was ready to roll into the season when it had its two weeks of good practices halted by COVID-19. Head coach Gary Duden said he was pleased with his team so far.

“Real satisfied with the girls that have come out, and they work hard and bought in,” Duden said. 

The Trojans have a good core of girls of returning from last year. 

“We have two seniors, two juniors and one sophomore that saw significant time at the varsity level last year,” Duden said.

The one sophomore is the team’s ace on the mound.

“Pitcher Denley Heller is a sophomore. She is all Vermilion county Conference team and all Vermillion County Team,” Duden said.

The team’s two returning seniors are both going to see time on the infield.

“Joie Younker is a good infielder, and Jordan Dillman is going to play first base,” Duden said.

Behind Heller are two freshmen who will fill out the rest of the A-P pitching staff.

“I’ve got a couple freshmen that are going shore up the pitching staff Kyla

Bullinngton and Cami Saltsgaver,” Duden said.

The catching will be done by two different Trojans.

“Gigi Mulvaney is going to be a phenomenal catcher for us. She will give Jess Goldman a chance to play third when she is not catching,” Duden said. 

The Trojans are coming off an 8-17 2019 campaign and are setting goals for this year.

“We always talk about goals; we want to finish .500 or better in conference. This my fifth year, and we haven’t been able to get over the hump so far,” Duden said. “We want to get to the regional championship game. We did that a couple of years ago, and it was really fun to watch the girls get to experience that.”

Duden said the reason he feels the Trojans have problems sustaining success is because they are so low on numbers.

“Most of my girls that are playing softball, this is their fourth sport this year, so we just have so many opportunities to get hurt, and we just don’t have the numbers to back that up,” Duden said.

This year’s Trojans team is expected to be different than years in the past.

“Pitching and defense will be our strength this year, which has not been the case in the past,” Duden said.

While the team is away from practice, Duden did give the girls advice on how to stay ready.

“We have got a couple opportunities off site like indoor batting cages the girls can use and the pitchers can do the normal routine we do at practice,” Duden said. 

“Hitters I told to wear out a pair of batting gloves and just keep hitting and hitting.”

Duden said despite the break his team had a lot of outdoor experience.

“The two weeks that we did have of practice, we were outside more than we’re

all of last year for practice,” Duden said.

When the season does get underway Duden is watching out for two big-time teams in the Trojans conference.

“In our conference it is always Salt Fork they just reload and are just asolid program. And they have a sophomore pitcher who is really good,” Duden said. “Milford is really good with a really solid senior pitcher who just signed with Parkland.”

Duden said his team did have a chance to have one last fun time together before the break.

“We were able to practice last Monday, and we decided as a coaching staff to make it fun and made it more team bonding because we felt so bad with the

seniors because we don’t know what is going to happen with this situation.” Duden said. “I had two seniors there who were very emotional, and we are trying follow what we are told but I really feel for them.”

You can contact Ryan Birch at Rbirch@Rantoulpress.com or on twitter @RyanBirchRP