Buffaloes have turned corner
CATLIN — Sometimes there is foreshadowing, subtle hints about the promise that exists for the future.
In Kim Fraser's first year as Georgetown-Ridge Farm/Chrisman softball coach last spring, however, the obvious indicators were missing.
The Buffaloes' hitting, she said, was "right around average." The defense was inconsistent and — not surprisingly — the team lost more games than it won.
Year 2 for Fraser has resulted in a quantum leap forward. After G-RF/C hit the 20-win mark for the second time in history on Thursday, topping Salt Fork 3-1, it ranks as the area's most improved team from 12 months ago.
"We have a lot of dedicated players who have put in a lot of hard work and took it more seriously," pitcher Lacey Krabel said after registering her 17th win.
Her catcher, also a senior, believed their final high school season could be special.
"We didn't expect it, but we hoped for it," Alyssa Sawyer said.
Though they have formed the battery for the majority of the games, Krabel said the true key is that there are so many contributors.
"It's not about one player," she said. "When we're in tough spots, we work together to get out of them."
The bottom of the seventh in the Vermilion Valley Conference game with the Storm represented a major hurdle to clear. Krabel lost her shutout bid on Nicole Weston's one-out hit, which brought the tying run to the plate.
The next Storm batter hit a line drive that second baseman Emilee Campbell snagged. The junior then tossed to first baseman Maya Green for a game-ending double play as the Buffaloes completed an errorless game on defense.
Fraser said the defensive prowess is a bonus for Krabel, who has several opportunities to play softball next year in college.
"Knowing that the defense can back her up has given her more confidence," Fraser said," and she's done her job."
Working with Sawyer lessens her stress.
"I pitch them where she calls them," said Krabel, who walked one and struck out seven.
Sawyer makes all of the calls on pitches and locations. Fraser has no reluctance in allowing her that responsibility.
"She has learned how to call a game, and that is huge," Fraser said.
The Buffaloes (20-3) scored the only runs they would need in the second inning against Hunter Marsh, who pitched a five-hitter.
Sawyer led off with a hit and scored on Callan Hall's single. Hall, who swiped third on a delayed steal, scored the final run of the inning. Campbell knocked in Leeann Conrad with a seventh-inning insurance run.
"The addition of some new players has motivated us," Fraser said. "Conrad is a freshman who is doing a phenomenal job in left field and the last three or four weeks is showing what she can do at the plate."
Shortstop Brittany Hay — who has committed one error in 23 games and leads the area in steals (54) — is a transfer from Schlarman.
"Brittany is solid offensively and defensively, but her leadership is what starts us," Fraser said. "It usually goes from me to her to the team. She's very vocal and that's her gift, her leadership qualities."
G-RF/C finishes 14-2 in VVC games and is one game behind Schlarman in the loss column.