Area prep softball teams building something new

Story and photos by Thomas Warner
contributing writer

Ramstein returns the top pitcher in all of DODEA and can hit for power while Kaiserslautern thinks it can also have a say in this season’s high school softball scenario. The rivals will play during the last week of the regular season and maybe again at the annual Europeans tournament.

Both schools have multiple construction projects going on now, with new high school buildings, elementary schools, and athletic fields going up on both campuses. Ramstein and Kaiserslautern are each playing at new locations this season but coaches aren’t complaining about the progressive atmosphere that comes with new facility construction.

Kaiserslautern coaches Jesse Costa (left) and Dina Swaim (not pictured: Jose Velazquez)

Raiders seniors (from left): Phoenix Whisennand, Victoria Jackson, Ally Alamos, Chloe Whisennand

KAISERSLAUTERN

The Raiders opened the season three weeks ago, splitting wins with Spangdahlem and averaging about 20 runs a contest. Coach Jesse Costa also saw her defense give up lots of runs in the opener and said a core group of four seniors will be asked to give guidance and production if the season is to have big rewards.

“The construction hasn’t bothered us and I think our practices have allowed us to get better in these first few weeks,” Costa said. “We are just really excited about our chances this season with what we feel is a lot of talent on the field for us.”

Costa enters her second season at the controls of the Raider program after previously volunteering on the Kaiserslautern staff and spending several years teaching/coaching in Naples, Kadena, and other schools. She is assisted on the 2018 Raiders staff by Jose Velasquez and Dina Swaim.

Phoenix Whisennand, Victoria Jackson, Ally Alamos, and Chloe Whisennand all played key roles last season and are the veterans on this current roster. Alamos accepted a scholarship to play collegiately at Our Lady of the Lake University in Texas and got off to a fast start this year.

“The regular season needs to be a time when we improve gradually,” Alamos said. “You use the regular season to get prepared for Euros. It’s a time to get your team right … to get that focus before you hit Euros.”

The seniors say Kaiserslautern will have a strong infield this year, with the Whisennand twins moving around between shortstop, third base, pitching, and catching and Alamos as the team’s top pitcher. Jackson will bring a big bat and can play effectively at third base, first, or shortstop.

“I think we are going to do really well,” Phoenix Whisennand said. “We have another year where we come in with a whole lot of athletes. It’s not like we have to show off with all our pitchers. We know that we have to ‘get there’ and we have to make sure that we get the strike.”

Costa described her roster as either ‘on the way out’ or ‘just coming in’ with only one junior and everyone being freshmen and sophomores. The coach previously won multiple championships at other schools including Naples and Kadena.

“Our role is to help train the new players the way we were trained,” said Jackson. “There are a lot of new ones this year and you see habits they got in little leagues that we try to change. At tryouts we saw several new players who could hit so I think we are going to have a good season.”

Ramstein coaches (from left): Tom Wright, Kandle Baxter, Carter Hollenbeck

Royals seniors (from left): Arianna Rivera, Anni Nozaki, Azure Agricula-McCormick, Abby Walker, Mikaela McBroom, Savannah Sparrow

RAMSTEIN

Royals senior mound ace Abby Walker said her team has a mindset that nothing that happened in the past matters to the current squad. Ramstein won the championship last season and has appeared in the DODEA championship finals nearly every year that softball has been played in Europe. They scored 18 runs twice and swept Wiesbaden two weeks ago to start the new campaign.

“Every year it’s new girls, new players … you always have to make a new team,” said Walker, the Stars and Stripes player of the year last season and one of six seniors who will play key roles for the squad this year.

Ramstein was going to play at Southside Field on base but instead has moved into a new field built last year near the middle and elementary schools. A batting cage, a storage unit and other intangibles give the Royals’ program new amenities to aid the push for another title.

Tom Wright and Carter Hollenbeck are dual head coaches, assisted by Kandle Baxter and other support personnel. In the past, DODEA softball has seen dominant pitching at Vilseck, Kaiserslautern, Stuttgart, and other schools. Now is the time for Ramstein to showcase the circuit’s top hurler. Walker will again try to limit the number of pitches she throws each inning and the Royals will ask Savannah Sparrow and others for mound contributions, too.

“I like to hit the ball and I played slow-pitch for several years so I got good at it,” Sparrow said. “My main position is shortstop and with slow-pitch you also constantly play defense so I can do a lot to help us this season.”

Madison Jarvis was set to play a role last year but was injured and had to wait. Three of the nine returnees for Ramstein are seniors, with Walker and Sparrow joined by veteran catcher Azure Agricula-McCormick. Catching for Walker has been a blessing, Agricula-McCormick said, on both offense and defense.

“Seeing what she throws certainly helps with my batting because she’s a veteran and she has taught me specific things about what other pitchers are going to throw at me and little things to look for when I’m batting,” Agricula-McCormick said. “We definitely lost some key players but having Abby as one of our returnees is really big for us. If you bat against her in practice you are going to become a better hitter.”