Softball: Putnam County’s new coach likes what she sees from hard-working group

Adrianna Zeman takes over, has Panthers earning their time on the field

There’s a new softball boss in Granville and she’s wiping the slate clean and starting fresh.

Adrianna Zeman, a 2017 La Salle-Peru High School and 2020 Eureka College graduate and softball player who coached travel ball and Putnam County Junior High a year ago, steps in to take over the Panthers program from Angie Heiser.

While she hasn’t had much time to get to know her new charges due to the wet and chilly spring weather, she’s had the time to give all of them a mantra that’s clear as a bell and not hard to understand.

Every one of them will have to earn their spot not only on the field, but on the roster.

That includes even the letter winners from last year’s club that went 10-12 overall, 5-9 in the Tri-County Conference and made it to the championship of the Class 1A St. Bede Regional.

Zeman is going to be tough but fair with her club, giving all its members the opportunity to earn playing time.

“This is a whole new experience for me and I’ve only had a weekend to get to know them, but so far, so good. It’s a good group,” Zeman said. “I kind of know what they did last year and how successful they were, but we’ve had some fun and I told them everything is going to go off of this year and I’m expecting them to be a little tougher this year.

“I know they’re competitive, hard workers. In fact, our competitiveness is our strength. We have strong leadership with all the upperclassmen we have coming back and even beyond them, the younger ones are making the older girls compete even harder, keeping them on their toes every day, so it’s been a lot of fun so far.

“In the little scrimmaging we’ve had, I’ve been giving the right of way to the older girls, but I’m not locking in any positions. I want them to keep fighting down to the very last day before our first game.”

Pitching will be handled primarily by senior Kara Staley, a NewsTribune All-Area Second-Team pick who has “decent speed, spins the ball well and can be dominant in the circle,” according to her new coach. Junior Paxton Stunkel is more an off-speed change of pace to her teammate.

Catching will be a trio of solid receivers in juniors Kylee Moore and Sarah Johnson and freshman Teaghan Gualandi. All three also may see the outfield time.

Around the infield, NewsTribune second-team choice Maggie Richetta and sophomore Maggie Spratt are competing for time at first base with senior Reise Zellmer and junior Gabby Doyle expected to play third base.

Up the middle, it will be Stunkel, when she’s not in the circle, Doyle, junior Salina Breckenridge and sophomore Valeria Villagomez.

Sophomore Courtney Oliver and freshman Ella Irwin also may see time at corner infield spots.

Senior Tori Balma, the team’s third NewsTribune second teamer, leads the outfield alongside Johnson, but the third outfielder should come from freshman Sydney Samek or any of the other versatile catchers, infielders or pitchers on an as-needed basis.

“It’s a fun situation out there because we have a lot of infielders right now, but we also have a lot of girls who are open to doing anything we need,” Zeman said. “We hit the ball hard and once we’re on base, we may not be fast, but we read mistakes quickly and aggressively take advantage of opportunities on the bases.

“We always say at practice, for those two hours, we don’t stop moving and they’ve shown they’re really hungry. They know where they left off last year and they want to make sure they don’t leave off in the same spot this year.”