By Corey B. Elliot
— The Ben Davis softball team is on the back end of a successful 2012 season that ended with a 19-9 record and a loss in the sectional championship. After graduating eight seniors — four of which are now playing college softball — and finishing second in conference play, the 2013 season is going to be a learning experience for a team that has no senior presence.
“We’re going to be very youthful,” Ben Davis coach Demetrius Dowler said. “We have zero seniors and that’s going to be tough. We’re basically made up of mainly freshmen and sophomores with a few juniors.”
That is certainly a difficult challenge, but every coach knows it’s the cycle that each school must endure. Going from success with great opportunities to bring home championships to mediocrity and obscurity trying to build a program back up is all in the name of the game. The tough part for any coach, though, is making his team believe and buy in to the task at hand while accepting they may not be anywhere near competitive just yet.
“We’re a good two years from really contending,” Dowler said. “This year will be a rebuilding year and I assume next year will be as well and by that time I feel like our freshmen and sophomores will be able to compete at a high level. Anytime you go from a senior-led team to a roster full of underclassmen and inexperience, it’s a tough switch.”
It’s often said that young teams simply don’t know any better. They don’t know what it takes to win in late game situations just as much as they don’t know the mistakes that can be avoided to lose late in a contest.
Dowler is hoping to use this in his favor by allowing his girls to live and learn throughout the entire season and develop their own identity.
“For the most part, they’re pretty aware of our circumstances,” Dowler said. “Being as young and inexperienced as they are, they won’t know any better so I’ll see how we compete and go from there. I don’t want to get them too anxious or too overwhelmed.”
It’s hard not to be overwhelmed or anxious when you play in arguably the toughest conference in the IHSAA, the MIC. It’s a conference that’s often used by opponents as the measuring stick for success to gage their progress and potential and Dowler is no different.
“There’s no doubt about it, when you play a MIC team, you evaluate it a lot stronger than any other opponent,” he said. “The two Terre Haute schools are really good softball schools. Then you add Carmel, Center Grove, even during down years it’s tough to compete. I’d say anyone who beats a MIC team has reason to celebrate.”
The task at hand is indeed a tall one for the Giants as this season will be more about a team coming together in the midst of a learning experience and finding an identity than it will be about wins.
“We play the best teams around because in softball you can schedule so many more games, so we pick up good teams like the Hamilton Southeasterns and Franklin Centrals,” Dowler said. “We truly play the toughest schedule in the state of Indiana. There’s nobody around Indy we don’t play so if we end up finishing .500, I’d be satisfied and I’d think we had an outstanding season.”