|Carper relies on experience and leadership to help Lady Cats softball|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
March 11, 2005 - When SSHS coach John McCullough sees senior Casey Carper on the diamond, he's looking at someone he expects to do it all for the Lady Cats.
Carper, the team's only three-year starter, bats lead-off, is the team's best defensive player and base runner. Plus, because of her experience, she leads by example.
"We depend on her leadership ability. She's the only player who has been a three-year starter," said McCullough. "She's been through two district campaigns and two playoff seasons, so she knows what it takes to get there."
As a junior, Carper led the team in on-base percentage (.424) by batting .338 (second on the team) and inducing 11 walks. She also played a near flawless second base.
She's back at second this year - though McCullough has flirted with her at shortstop - and she could play outfield, which she did as a sophomore and for a couple of games last season to settle down that position.
"We've used her as a middle infielder and in the outfield, and she's one of those girls who could excel at any position we played her," McCullough said. "Casey is a very good defensive player because she works hard at it. She has the tools you need to be good on defense. She has soft hands and a strong arm, and she gets a good read on the ball."
Carper credits her defensive ability to the innumerable ground balls she fielded from her father, Danny.
"Defense is my best talent. It's my favorite thing," she said. "When I was growing up, I always had my dad hit balls to me.
"When you make a great play, it's a great feeling to know you've done that. You have to practice at it to be good - and that's what I did when I was younger."
Carper will also be doing it when she is older because she has signed to play for Odessa College, where she will study to become an X-ray technician.
She doesn't know where she will be in the Odessa line-up, but for McCullough, she's at the top of the order. She batted ninth last year to give the team in essence two lead-off hitters. This year, she's in the No. 1 position.
"Casey does a great job of getting on base. She has a good eye at the plate, she can work walks and she has great bat control," McCullough said in naming the reasons she's a lead-off hitter. "She can drag bunt to get on base, she can hit to the opposite field and she can pull the ball.
"And once she gets on base, she's our best base runner. She can steal second and put herself in scoring position or we can bunt her to third and have a situation to score her with less than two outs."
She showed her ability to get on base Tuesday against Forney when she reached base three different ways - a single, a walk and a hit-by-pitch.
McCullough hopes her productivity at the top of the order will turn into more runs for the Lady Cats (8-6), who have just 11 more days before starting District 12-4A play March 22 against Paris.
They travel to Sherman today for a 4 p.m. game against the Lady Bearcats, then host Mount Vernon next Tuesday before playing in the Arlington tournament next weekend.