Timing is everything. That’s how Doug Schultz, the new RBHS softball head coach, views his latest bench opportunity. His predecessor, John Vermillion, coached the Bulldogs to several successful seasons although RBHS struggled mightily last year with an uncharacteristic 11-21 record. With all due respect to successful former RBHS softball coaches like Vermillion and Dan Hull, Schultz along with his top assistant coach Jame Holt and the Bulldogs are focused on the future.
“The tradition is here and we have talented, fantastic girls to work with,” said Schultz, who has taught math at RBHS since 2002. “I think the timing was just right where this opportunity came together for all of us. We want to build the program for the long term and believe the future is bright.”
Schultz enters the dugout with plenty of coaching experience. He was the varsity softball head coach at Hillcrest before working on the Sandburg softball coaching staff, which guided the Eagles to four Top 4 finishes in the state between 1998-2002. He also served as a freshmen football coach at RBHS for four years.
“My first objective is establishing consistency throughout the [softball] program,” Schultz said. “We want to the girls to understand situational softball from the varsity on down to the lower levels. Whether it’s something as simple as bunt coverage or drills work, we’re looking to establish a consistent way of doing things which will be the key to our growth.”
Although the Bulldogs lost several players to graduation, notably slugging catcher Emily Hastings (who hit .593 last season eclipsing Kiley Rusen’s previous record of .549), a handful of experienced varsity players return.
“I was really excited when I found out we’ll have two coaches this year [Schultz and Holt] because in past seasons we’ve really only had one,” junior pitcher Katie O’Connell said. “Coach Schultz and Holt push us to work hard. I like how they run practice. We’re definitely motivated to have a good season.”
O’Connell, who also can play the outfield, won 10 games last season and athletic junior Lana Herrmann can play essentially any position on the field.
“They are our leaders, team captains and great all-around players,” Schultz said. “Katie is very refined as a pitcher. She puts in a lot of work with her travel ball team and softball is just part of her makeup. Lana can move and is very fundamentally sound. When you see her swing in the batting cage, it’s beautiful.”
Kendall Hastings (Emily’s younger sister) is another talented returning player slated to play third base. She possesses a great glove and good bat. Youth will be served up the middle defensively as sophomores Nicole McCabe and Taylor Holin are pegged as the starters at second base and shortstop, respectively, after garnering valuable playing time on the junior varsity last spring. Freshman catcher Cami Shaw will share backstop duties with Herrmann.
Other contributors include No. 2 pitcher Liz Di Monte, outfielders Samantha Cook and Tricia Scalese, along with valuable utility player Caitie Rusen and highly touted freshman Lyndsey Hoyd. Hoyd just completed an outstanding debut season in basketball with fellow freshmen hoops stars Samantha Bloom and Dana Rettke.
“Lyndsey has a whole lot of talent,” Schultz said. “She’s very athletic, competitive and can play anywhere on the field. She’ll spell O’Connell and DiMonte with our pitching.”
Glenbard South figures to be the preseason Metro Suburban Conference favorite with clubs like RBHS, Elmwood Park and Fenton among others in the mix.
“Because it’s our first year we’re not looking for any specific numbers of wins,” Schultz said. “I anticipate a successful season and expect us to be competitive, win games. Hopefully at the end of the season, we’ll be competing for some championships, but we’ll see how it goes. If we put in the work, everything should take care of itself.”