COLLINSVILLE — Collinsville coach Cindy Kolda isn't worried about her hitters producing runs, but she sees the ability of her fielders to limit the damage from their opponents as the key to the Kahoks' season.
"We have to be able to play behind our pitchers a little better than last year," said Kolda, whose squad posted a 17-19 record last season. "I think by the end of the year we were averaging over seven runs a game, and we still lost that many (games). We have to play better defense. They know that now."
Kolda is hoping the addition of assistant coach Jessica Schmittling, a former Belleville East player, will help the Kahoks shore up their defense.
"Belleville East is always a good defensive team, so it's not a bad idea to steal some of their defensive ideas," Kolda said.
The Kahoks are off to a 4-0 start this season. They've scored 56 runs in those four game.
"I brought all my hitters back from last year," Kolda said. "They worked really hard during the offseason. I've got a couple of kids who have started off pretty hot so far."
The Kahoks have only two seniors, but they return eight players who gained considerable experience last season.
"They'll kind of know what they have to do now," Kolda said. "I think it was maturity thing last year. Just being a year older, and if you make a mistake, still being able to overcome it and still play well for your team. I think that's the main thing they need to work on this year."
The two seniors are outfielders Jessica Ledford and Kadie Ringering.
Ledford bats leadoff and sets the table for the rest of the middle of the Kahoks' batting order.
Ledford batted .437 and scored a team-leading 44 runs last season. She also had seven doubles and six triples.
"She mixes it up," Kolda said of Ledford, who is headed to Quincy University. "As a lefty, you can do a lot of things. She can hit for power, but she also can lay (a bunt) down and get down the line."
The Kahoks have three sophomore pitchers -- Sidney Bost, Caitlyn Brombolich and Addison Wickiser -- taking the mound for them this season.
Bost had a 9-3 record and Brombolich had a 4-6 record with a 4.20 ERA last season.
Wickiser threw mostly on the junior varsity last season, but she'll pitch some varsity innings this year.
Former McKendree University pitcher BethAnn Scwartz also has joined the Kahoks' coaching stuff. She'll help mentor the pitchers.
Junior Kassidy Smith is the primary catcher. She led the Kahoks with a .451 batting average and tied for the team lead in RBIs with 28 last season.
Junior Samantha Better, who batted .357 with 23 RBIs, also could see some action behind the plate.
Junior Alex Holten will shift from third base to first base. She batted .391 with 28 RBIs last season.
Junior Audrey Allard, Brombolich and Bost will handle the middle infield depending on who is pitching.
Junior Sarah Scrum and Buettner have been splitting time at third base.
Scrum, who hit .310 with 19 RBIs last season, is the younger sister of former Kahoks standout Rachel Scrum.
"There is another one coming up," Kolda said of the Scrum sisters. "I always joke that I am going to have Scrums playing for like 13 out of 14 years."
Ledford, Ringering, Becky Gibbs will patrol the outfield.
Ringering batted .339 with 30 runs scored and 26 RBIs last season, while Gibbs batted .371 with 29 runs scored last season.
Kolda said the same teams -- Edwardsville, East, Alton and O'Fallon -- are the front runners in the Southwestern Conference race again this year.
"I think it'll be a race to the end again just like that year," Kolda said. "I don't think anybody graduated very much, so I think the conference will look at lot like last year. If the girls come together, I don't see why we can't be a part of it. We're going to have to play our best game every time we go out in conference, and hopefully good things will happen."
Contact reporter Steve Korte at email@example.com or 239-2522.