When Sallie Scudder left Berkeley Prep to take over coaching duties at her alma mater Plant, she left a successful program.
Turns out, she brought just the right ingredients to help another successful program improve. So far this season, the Panthers are 8-0 and look like a team that wants a berth in the Class 4A state semifinals.
Plant's 20 players all have gotten playing time since Scudder hasn't settled on a permanent starting nine.
"These girls are talented and the team is deep," Scudder said. "They are all playing very hard in practice to earn playing time in the games, and in the games they are playing hard to get more time.
"The best thing is they are very supportive of each other and realize it takes a team to win, not just one or two standouts."
In their first eight games, the Panthers have scored 75 runs and allowed eight. Half the roster is hitting better than .350, and 16 players are error-free. The team has committed only five errors, and all came in a 17-5 win over Jefferson on Tuesday.
The Panthers have succeeded with a solid balance of pitching, defense and hitting.
Although the team has seven freshmen capable of contributing, it also has eight seasoned seniors who have been contributing for three seasons.
Megan Menard leads a pitching rotation of five players. The sophomore has pitched 23 of the 50 innings played and has a 0.19 ERA, 15 strikeouts and no walks.
She also helps in centerfield and is hitting .500.
Kelly Betts (sophomore), Lauren Rodriguez (freshman), Lauren Castellvi (freshman) and Tiffany Abbott (senior) round out the pitching rotation, which has a combined ERA of 0.70.
Betts is hitting .389, Rodriguez .353 and Abbott .500. Castellvi is the team's leading hitter at .533. All help in one or more defensive positions when not pitching.
"Except for the catcher and maybe a couple others, we have been using three different players in most of the positions defensively," Scudder said. "This team does have some depth."
Senior outfielders Dusten Minardi and Stephanie Swanz hit .500. Others hitting above .350 include: freshmen Katie Grimes (.400) and Sarah Gandy (.375); junior Erin Boggs (.429); and senior Erica Tate (.385).
Grimes and Tate alternate behind the plate, Boggs helps at shortstop and second base, and Gandy is another outfielder. Swanz and Boggs each have seven RBIs.
Scudder plans to continue giving everyone playing time to strengthen depth. She said a permanent starting nine might not surface until later in the season.
"This team plays a complete game from start to finish and works well as a unit," Scudder said. "So far we haven't given up any walks. We force hitters to put the ball into play and rely on a good defense. Although we have a lot of talented young players, we have a strong presence from our senior class."
REMATCH: Bloomingdale will travel to Riverview tonight to play its second game with the Sharks. In the first game, the Bulls were leading 1-0 in the sixth inning before Riverview came alive for a 3-1 district victory.
Bloomingdale has no seniors, but it does have a 6-2 record and is 2-2 in district play.
Junior pitcher Allison Kime leads the Bulls with a 5-0 record, 0.20 ERA and 61 strikeouts. She is also one of the team's best hitters with a .300 average.
Kristin Naas is the top hitter at .395, and Devan Spence is second at .375.
"That is about it for hitting," Bloomingdale coach Mike Clamon said. "Obviously our defense is strong, but if we don't add some offense before the end of the season, we won't make it out of districts. The good news is they are young and getting better."
_ TERRY JONES