PREP SOFTBALL: First-year coach Megan Smith looks to build solid program at Danville

May 2—TILTON — First-year Danville softball coach Megan Smith knew there were going to be good days and bad days when she took over the program this year for Corey Pullin.

Unfortunately for Smith and the Lady Vikings one of those bad days was Tuesday.

The Champaign Central Maroons maintained their grip on first place in the Big 12 Conference with a 12-1 win over Danville at Jason Anderson Field in the Gruber Sports Complex.

"We fell more than short, but I'm still proud of a lot things they are doing this season," Smith said. "Just the progressing I'm seeing every day, every game and every week is something really positive."

The Vikings are now 9-10 overall — an improvement of three wins already.

"I really thought it would be challenging to get wins this year. We lost some solid players from last year and we didn't have a lot of girls with experience coming out this year," said Smith, who was an assistant last year with Pullin. "But, we've had some players step up and they have surprised me in a lot of ways.

"Winning more games than we did last year is a great way to start my first year."

Immediate success wasn't part of Smith's plans when she took over the program this season.

"Honestly, coming into this year, I just wanted to try and figure out what kind of coach I needed to be to build the program back up to what I think it can be," she said. "I know we won a regional championship when I played in 2002, but I'm not sure if they have won it since."

Actually, Danville won regional titles in 2008 and 2010, but the Vikings have had one one winning season in the past seven years.

"We really need to get this program built back up to get our community interested and get our numbers back up," said Smith, whose roster has only 16 players for varsity and junior-varsity.

"In my first year, I knew we weren't going to be at a level of contending for a regional title, but I wanted this to be a building year," said Smith. "Where I learn a lot from them and they learn a lot from me. We pour into each other and build the program stronger for next year and the years to come."

Are there any specific areas that Smith wants to see change?

"Tonight is a good example. We need pitching," she said. "Poor Kendall (Rannebarger) is the only one that we've got at the varsity level. She's been a big part of our success this season, but I don't have anyone to put into a game like this to mix it up."

Smith isn't as worried about her team's hitting or defense.

"Those things are going to improve with experience," she said. "Right now, we just need to keep learning and keep getting better.

"This is a big change, so I need them to understand my expectations and then buy into the program."

Smith says there are some talented players in the younger age levels in Danville.

Up next for the Vikings are a pair of very challenging road games at Casey-Westfield on Tuesday and at St. Joseph-Ogden next Tuesday. Danville will return to conference play on May 9 at home against Urbana.

At Jason Anderson Field, Tilton Champaign Central 12, Danville 1

Central 004 53 — 12 18 0

Danvillle 000 10 — 1 4 0

WP — Haley Helm. LP — Kendall Rannebarger. Two or more hits — Central: Mya de la Cruz 4, Tayten Hunter 3, Grace Bandy 3, H. Helm 2, Kaitlyn Helm 2, Danville: Ka'Leah Bellik. 2B — Central: de la Cruz 3, Bandy, H.Helm, K.Helm, Hunter, Olivia Dempsey, Maisie Bowers. Danville: Bellik. 3B — Cental: H.Helm, K.Helm. RBIs — Central: Madison Kloeppel 4, Bowers 3, H.Helm 2, Hunter 2, de la Cruz. Danville: Gracie Briggs.

Records — Champaign Central 12-8-1 overall, 6-1 in the Big 12 Conference. Danville 9-10 overall, 2-3 in the Big 12.