The target number is four. Score four runs and new Marshalltown High School head softball coach Jeff Lamb likes the probability of his team winning, thanks to what the Bobcats can put out in the pitching circle.
Senior Taylor Vaske and junior Lauren Mazour lead the pitching staff for Marshalltown as the Bobcats look forward to Tuesday's season opener against Newton at the MHS diamond.
Vaske and Mazour are the vets in the circle for the Bobcats. Last summer as MHS went 23-19, Vaske finished 10-4 and Mazour was 8-12.
"Pitching is going to be our strong suit," said Lamb, who just finished his fourth season as head coach at Marshalltown Community College. "We've been working really hard with the offense and that's one thing we need to improve on.
"We've been doing a lot with offensive strategies, not necessarily just hitting. Working on stealing bases, when to take the next base, when to stay, how to get the runner from first second, second to home, however you're going to do it. We have to figure out how we're going to score four runs a game because with the pitching we have, that's about all we're going to need."
Vaske was strong down the stretch last summer. Her last start saw her pitch 11 innings - the first nine scoreless - against eventual state qualifier Dowling Catholic. Over Vaske's final eight appearances she had an ERA of 1.53 and had a no-hitter and was part of a perfect game. Mazour had an ERA of 1.77 as a freshman as the team's leader in innings, to follow up a 1.96 ERA as an eighth-grader.
2012 Marshalltown Softball Schedule
(All doubleheaders unless noted)
May 22, Newton (1), 7:30 p.m.
May 24, Des Moines North, 6:15 p.m.
May 29, at Johnston, 6:15 p.m.
May 31, Waukee, 6:15 p.m.
June 1, Ottumwa, 6 p.m.
June 4, at Ames, 6:15 p.m.
June 6, WDM Valley, 6:15 p.m.
June 8-9, BCLUW Comet Invitational, at Conrad, TBA
June 11, at Mason City, 6:15 p.m.
June 14, Fort Dodge, 6:15 p.m.
June 18, at Waukee, 6:15 p.m.
June 21, Ames, 6:15 p.m.
June 22-23, BOBCAT CLASSIC, TBA
June 25, at WDM Valley, 6:15 p.m.
June 27, at Benton Comm., 5:30 p.m.
June 28, Mason City, 6:15 p.m.
June 29-30, at Iowa City Tournament, TBA
July 2, at Fort Dodge, 6:15 p.m.
"Those two have shown what they can do," Lamb said. "Either one of them on the mound is going to help us out a lot."
The pitching depth is strengthened by Cassidy Blackford, a ninth-grader that started on the varsity last year, and Jasmine Judge.
Junior catcher Taylor Wagner was an all-district pick last season and was first or second in most offensive categories for the Bobcats as she hit .377 with 19 runs scored, 40 hits, two home runs and 27 RBIs.
"She's going to be a huge part of the offense with her bat," Lamb said. "We're going to do a lot of little things, but Taylor going to be a run-producer in the middle of the order."
Wagner will also see some time in center field and when she's there Morgan Bellile will be behind the plate. Wagner, who plays club ball for the I-CLUB, has verbally committed to play collegiately at Eastern Michigan.
"Whoever is the behind the plate, they are in charge of everything," Lamb said. "What they say goes. We want them to make the decisions out there and Taylor obviously is going to be very good at that for us."
Wagner will be joined in the middle of the lineup with the task of run-producing by Mazour and Vaske.
Mazour will be playing at first base when not pitching. Junior Quinn Goodman, a .284 hitter last year, is at second base, senior Hailee Beals is at shortstop and Madi Bellile leads the group to see time at third base.
Among those returning to the outfield are juniors Emily DeVenney (.261) and Megan Major and the freshman Blackford. Vaske will play either third base or the outfield when not pitching.
The teams to beat in the CIML Iowa Conference again start with West Des Moines Valley and Waukee. Fort Dodge is coming off a state tournament appearance, while Ames has a future NCAA Division I player leading its pitching staff.
"The good thing about it is if we know we can compete in the conference, we know we can compete in the state," Lamb said. "A big thing is figuring out it doesn't matter how we fare in the conference as far as finishing first or anything like that. It matters at the end of the year what we're doing and that we're playing well. We've got to prove to ourselves we can beat those teams and there are some really good teams in the conference."
The Bobcats will face Newton in one varsity game at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday.
Lamb takes over head coaching duties from Mike Vint, a career winner of more than 1,100 games. Vint was at MHS for the previous four seasons.
"I want to see the way we come out with intensity," Lamb said. "Mike has done a really good job of building the program to where it's at now."
"The girls know the game really well from what Mike has taught them and for me coming in, I've kind of had it easy with them knowing where they're supposed to be, what they're supposed to do and we can move on from there and work on some other things," he added.
The team will be gaining more and more pieces soon as the Bobcats get players on board when the spring seasons of track, golf and soccer have been completed.
"I've liked how we've been looking in practice," Lamb said, "and I want us to be that team that comes off the field with dirt and mud and everything all over them because of how they played, how hard they worked. I think they're definitely capable of that."