Danville softball team building toward better days ahead

Published 6:00 pm Thursday, April 25, 2024

Progress on the softball diamond can be measured in any number of increments, but the most important measure for Whitney Cruver is the largest of them all: years.

Cruver is keenly interested in the day-to-day progress of the Danville team she coaches, but she’s also keenly aware any real measure of success is still at least a year or two down the road.

So while the Lady Admirals celebrate their good days, their coach wants them to also build a foundation for better days to come.

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“We’re not focused just on game to game or this year,” Cruver said. “I’ve already talked to them a number of times about what we do now and at the end of the season is going to carry into next season because hopefully we’ll have everybody return next year.”

Cruver needs every player she can get in her effort to reverse the fortunes of a program that has struggled for more than a decade.

The Lady Admirals barely had enough players to field a team last year, and they have only a few more this year and for the second straight season have a roster heavy with middle school players.

But they believe that will help them in coming seasons as they grow and improve together.

“I feel like we can get really good,” seventh-grader Riley Foster, the team’s primary pitcher, said. “(It’s going to take) just hard work and more practice.”

As for this season, Danville was 5-11 after losing to Somerset Christian 12-4 on Tuesday.

They were within two wins of their 2022 victory total, and they’re certain they are a better team than they were last year or even when the season began just over a month ago.

“We’ve improved a lot since the beginning of the season,” Foster said.

Even in the loss to Somerset Christian, Cruver noted there were areas in which the Lady Admirals showed improvement.

“I don’t think we really had too many errors, whereas last week we had a game where we had 11, so that’s a huge improvement. And we’re just getting better in the (batter’s) box and having good at-bats,” she said.

She said the determination of whether the Lady Admirals have a good day is based not on who they play but on how they play.

“The good days depend on who decides to show up. We are young, and we’re struggling with errors and strikeouts,” Cruver said.

Danville has struggled since 2012, the final season of an 11-year run under coach Jerry Perry in which it won four district titles and reached the regional semifinals five times.

The Lady Admirals haven’t won more than 10 games and haven’t won a postseason game since then. They had six coaches in nine seasons before Cruver, a hall of fame pitcher at both her Ohio high school and the University of the Cumberlands, took over the program in October 2022.

Cruver had only nine or 10 players last season, and this year there are 13, six of whom are in middle school.

“That is helpful for our future because they’re going to be playing together for so many years,” she said.

She began practice in November, much earlier than usual, and she said the work they put in during the winter was encouraging.

Junior Jazelynn Doneghy, the only upperclassman on the roster, said she likes the direction the team has taken.

“I feel like we’re more confident this year, (playing with) more energy and just more as a team in general,” Doneghy said. “We all get along, we’re friends and there’s no drama, and that really helps.”

Foster is the team’s top offensive player with a .538 batting average, eight doubles, eight RBIs and 12 stolen bases through 16 games. Sophomore Dashannica Jones is hitting .400 with five doubles and 12 RBIs and Doneghy is hitting .383 with six doubles and nine RBIs.

Cruver’s goals for the remainder of this season are for Danville to pick up as many as five more wins and to be in position to win a game in the five-team 45th District Tournament.

There will likely still be difficult days between now and then – Danville has three mercy-rule wins but also has seven mercy-rule losses – but the coach said a strong finish to this season will give them momentum heading into next year and beyond as they continue to try to rebuild their program.

“I have a lot of hope in them,” Cruver said.