“Girls just want to have fun” may be song lyrics, but the words also perfectly describe the Keller softball team.
Head coach Bryan Poehler encourages his team to work and play hard, and the results speak for themselves. Keller finished 36-1 last year, losing in the regional semifinals. Three of this years’ four seniors were on that team and all of them are looking to lead their team back to the playoffs, and have fun doing it.
“One of the first things I preached when I took the head coaching job was about becoming a family,” Poehler said. “The closer you are as a team, the more successful you are.”
Center fielder Kristin Watkins was voted captain by her teammates.
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“She is outspoken and the team really reacts to her,” Poehler said. “It is one of those situations where she is good at taking charge and she does it in the right way. She’s the team leader but she isn’t bossy.”
Watkins is humbled by her role.
“It was so awesome that they chose me, but I didn’t want people to feel like I was trying to be the boss,” she said. “I would rather lead by example. To show them instead of tell them.”
Poehler sees good chemistry as a key to his team’s success.
“When other teams are warming up, they’ll be sitting playing games they made up,” he said. “I love it. That’s what it takes for them to be relaxed. When they are relaxed they have fun, and when they have fun they’re unbeatable.”
Leading the fun is right fielder Katie “Bob” Laws.
“Katie explains the name ‘Bob’ to a T. She does her own thing and is comfortable with who she is,” said Poehler. “She helps keep the team light. They play good goofy, and she has a role in that.”
After more than two years catching and playing third base, Laws was put in right field by chance last season and she never left.
“She made some of the best plays I have ever seen a right fielder make,” Poehler said. “She will run through a fence and dive for a ball. She gets the job done.”
Laws enjoys her new role.
“I love running down fly balls and doing whale drills where you are diving,” she said. “There is also a little less pressure than in the infield.”
Despite juggling a heavy AP class load, Laws manages to provide plenty of levity.
“Sometimes the girls can get rattled up and I lighten the mood,” she said. “The team and the girls are really fun to be around. It is an interesting group of girls we have here and I am like the ringleader of weird.”
Pitcher Robyn Stidd recognizes her team’s unique bond.
“The chemistry we have this year is better, and unexpectedly better than any other team I have ever been on,” she said.
Stidd’s role is a critical one.
“She is playing somewhat of a closer-type role for us and is very good at changing speeds. She’s a great spin pitcher,” Poehler said. “Good teams can hit a fast pitch, but when you bring in a pitcher that can change speeds a lot, she’ll be a big advantage for us.”
Outfielder Heather Suydam is taking her first turn on varsity.
“She’s a very technical player and is quick to do anything you need her to do,” Poehler said. “She was outstanding last year on JV and started every game.”
“I like varsity so much better and the chemistry is really a lot better this year,” Suydam said. “I want to try to go to state this year. As a senior that would be great.”
All four seniors agree that a playoff bid in their final season would be sweet, but that team unity is sweeter.
“We all want to leave a legacy for future teams,” Watkins said. “We haven’t always had the best chemistry and leadership on our teams. We want them to look back and see that we changed that and made it better.”
The Lady Indians open district play at home against Northwest on Feb. 25.