For the past 16 seasons, there was a familiar face in the Northwest softball dugout.
Merri Copeland led the Grizzlies to nine City League championships and the 1999 Class 6A championship.
In four of the past five seasons, the Grizzlies won 19 games or more and qualified for the state tournament under Copeland.
But Copeland resigned last summer and Cody Stucky takes over one of the most successful programs in the area.
“From what I’ve heard, we lost a pretty solid group of seniors, so I’m excited about filling in the gaps and piecing the puzzle together,” Stucky said. “That’s a challenge I always look forward to. Everything is new to me here at Northwest, so everyone has a clean slate.”
While it has been an adjustment for Stucky, it’s been perhaps even more of an adjustment for the Grizzlies.
Stucky does things differently than Copeland and for Northwest’s returning players, learning that has been challenging.
“At first, we were unsure because we knew what Coach Copeland always expected,” senior catcher Lyndi McIntyre said. “Coach Stucky has a different style and it just took getting used to and now we’re all used to it.”
McIntyre, who was a second-team All-City League catcher, is one of four key building blocks for Stucky and the Grizzlies. Also back is second-team all-coaches association pitcher Mary Henning, honorable mention all-league infielder Caitlin Savage and junior pitcher Alex Jennings.
“We lost a lot of seniors,” Henning said. “Getting some of the younger players to get used to playing varsity is an obstacle, and we will have to work together to do it.”
Despite having to reload several key positions, Savage thinks the talent is still similar to what it was last season.
“We all have to do the little things to be successful, but I look at our team and I don’t think we have any huge weaknesses,” Savage said.
Stucky knows he has the pitching good enough to be successful, but he wants defense and station-to-station baseball to be the backbone of the Grizzlies.
“We want to try and make every routine play we can on defense,” Stucky said. “And on offense, we need to be smart on the bases. I’ll take a slower girl that is smart on the bases versus a fast girl that makes several mistakes.”
CITY LEAGUE PLAYERS TO WATCH
Carroll: Jessi Haffner, sr., Morgan Balderas, sr., Hunter Hogan, sr., Lauren Buchanan, jr., Brittany Finney, jr.
East: Hannah Wilson, jr., Kylie Hall, sr., Aspen Herzberg, so., Alexis Banzet, jr.
Heights: Kiersten Parks, sr., Claire Tristschler, jr., Mackenzie Cline, so., Regan Self, so.
Kapaun: Lily Channel, sr., Mary Swanson, sr., Adrienne Espisito, sr., Olivia Tolbred, sr.
North: Hayley Johnson, fr., Callie Trevino, fr., Stephanie Nutt, jr.
South: Tori Rose, sr., Kaylyn Rhodes, sr.
Southeast: Kylie Fox, jr., Lauryn Schooler, sr., Kaylie Ines, sr., Kiana Grim, sr.
West: Shanice Coleman, jr., Cora Johnson, jr., Rianne Martin, jr., Brooke Shook, sr.
Thursday — Heights vs. Campus (South Lakes), Buhler, Clearwater at Wellington, Derby at Goddard, Mulvane at Augusta, McPherson at Rose Hill; Friday — Eisenhower at Salina Central; 31 — El Dorado at Mulvane, Rose Hill at Wellington, McPherson at Andale.
1 — Kapaun at Ark City, Carroll vs. West (TRYC), Heights vs. Northwest (TRYC), Southeast vs. East (TRYC), South vs. North (TRYC); 3 — Winfield, Clearwater vs. East (TRYC), Northwest at Derby, Maize vs. Carroll (TRYC), Southeast at Salina Central, Goddard at Hutchinson, Wellington at Mulvane, Augusta at El Dorado, Chaparral at Medicine Lodge, Belle Plaine at Bluestem; 4 — Ark City vs. South (TRYC), Valley Center at Salina South, Andover Central at Newton, Rose Hill at Augusta; 7 — Andale at Mulvane, Clearwater at Rose Hill, McPherson at Winfield, Medicine Lodge at Belle Plaine, Chaparral at Bluestem; 8 — East vs. South (TRYC), Heights vs. Southeast (TRYC), Kapaun vs. Northwest (TRYC), North vs. West (TRYC), Independence at Trinity; 10 — Southeast vs. Kapaun (TRYC), South vs. Heights (TRYC), Carroll vs. North (TRYC), West vs. East (TRYC), Circle at McPherson, Wellington at Augusta, Clearwater at Buhler, Andale at Winfield, Medicine Lodge at Belle Plaine, Chaparral at Douglass, Trinity at Cheney; 11 — East at Hutchinson, Liberal vs. Southeast (TRYC), Andover at Goddard, Andover Central at Eisenhower, Newton at Salina South, Campus at Maize, Valley Center at Maize South; 14 — El Dorado at McPherson, Rose Hill at Bugler, Winfield at Mulvane, Circle at Clearwater, Independent at Trinity, Chaparral at Cheney; 15 — North vs. Northwest (TRYC), Kapaun vs. East (TRYC), West vs. South (TRYC), Southeast vs. Carroll (TRYC), Goddard at Eisenhower, Newton at Derby, Maize at Hutchinson, Campus at Andover, Salina South at Salina Central, Maize South at Ark City; 17 — North, Andover at Newton, Heights at Dodge City, Carroll at Maize South, Augusta at McPherson. Clearwater at El Dorado, Circle at Rose Hill, Wellington at Winfield, Cheney at Medicine Lodge; 21 — Douglass at Trinity, Medicine Lodge at Independent, Bluestem at Belle Plaine; 22 — Heights at North (TRYC), South vs. Southeast (TRYC), Northwest vs. West (TRYC), Carroll vs. Kapaun (TRYC), Andover Central at Maize South, Hesston at Cheney; 24 — West vs. Heights (TRYC), East vs. Carroll (TRYC), Kapaun vs. South (TRYC), Northwest vs. Southeast (TRYC), Great Bend vs. North (TRYC), Buhler at Mulvane, Andale at Clearwater, El Dorado at Winfield, Augusta at Circle; 25 — South at Dodge City, Hutchinson at Eisenhower, Ark City at Goddard, Derby at Salina South, Campus at Newton, Salina Central at Maize, Cheney at Trinity, Belle Plaine at Medicine Lodge, Douglass at Chaparral; 28 — Buhler at McPherson, Mulvane at El Dorado, Clearwater at Augusta, Rose Hill at Winfield, Chaparral at Trinity, Medicine Lodge at Bluestem, Belle Plaine at Independent, Cheney at Douglass; 29 — Southeast vs. North (TRYC), South vs. Carroll (TRYC), Heights vs. Kapaun (TRYC), East vs. Northwest (TRYC), Maize South at Goddard, Derby at Andover Central, Valley Center at Eisenhower, Newton at Hutchinson, Campus at Salina Central, Salina South at Maize.
1 — Mulvane at McPherson, El Dorado at Rose Hill, Winfield at Buhler, Independent at Chaparral, Trinity at Belle Plaine; 2 — Sunrise at West, Maize at Goddard, Derby at Campus, Hutchinson at Salina South, Salina Central and Newton, Andover Central at Andover, Ark City at Valley Center, Eisenhower at Maize South, Medicine Lodge at Kingman; 5 — Medicine Lodge at Douglass, Chaparral at Belle Plaine, Trinity at Bluestem, Independent at Cheney; 6 — North vs. Kapaun (TRYC), West vs. Southeast (TRYC), Heights vs. East (TRYC), Northwest vs. Carroll (TRYC), Maize at Newton, Hutchinson at Campus, Goddard at Valley Center, Ark City at Andover Central; 8 — Rose Hill at Mulvane, Maize South at Augusta, Wellington at Clearwater, Winfield at Circle, Trinity at Medicine Lodge, Bluestem at Chaparral, Belle Plaine at Cheney; 9 — Maize South, Andover Central at Emporia, McPherson, Great Bend at Salina South, Valley Center, Cheney at Campus, Eisenhower at Andover; 10 — Maize South, Andover Central at Emporia; 12 — El Dorado, Wellington at Valley Center, Mulvane at Circle, Trinity at Clearwater, Andale at Rose Hill, Augusta at Buhler, Medicine Lodge at Chaparral, Douglass at Belle Plaine, Cheney at Bluestem; 13 — North vs. East (TRYC), Kapaun vs. West (TRYC), Carroll vs. Heights (TRYC), Northwest vs. South (TRYC), Hutchinson at Derby, McPherson at Salina Central, Salina South at Maize South, Ark City at Winfield; 15 — Goddard vs. Kapaun (TRYC), Maize at Andover; 16 — Maize, Northwest at Andover; 19-22 — Regionals; 29-30 — State tournaments.