CHATHAM, NJ - It sounds strange to hear that Bonnie Kennedy is working on "getting up to speed" for the Chatham softball team this season.
That's because everyone associated with Chatham softball knows that the junior is the fastest player on the team. What Kennedy is working on is getting up to speed with her new position - second base.
When last year's starter at second base, Chloe Blanc, decided to concentrate on basketball, first-year coach Brian Figueiredo had to find a replacement and he asked Kennedy to move in from left field.
"He came to me and said there was a hole at second base," Kennedy sad. "I told him I could play anywhere the team needs me to play. It feels good, but it's very different. I have to get used to it. It's definitely going to take some time, but I feel like I'll be able to do it. Whatever the team needs I'll do."
The last time Kennedy played second base was three years ago for her club team. She still feels she'll be able to use her foot speed on defense by covering bunts and getting to second base to cover on steal attempts.
"I've always kind of known how to play second base," Kennedy said. "I just have to get used to it again. Playing so close is a lot different. I'm used to being in the outfield."
The infield should be a strength for the Lady Cougars, who finished 15-10 in reaching the state sectional semifinal last season. Strong-armed sophomore shortstop Camryn Davies returns to form the double-play combination with Kennedy.
Twin sisters, Hallie and Morgan Pellegrin, hold down the corner positions. Hallie returns to third base and Morgan takes over at first.
Chatham boasts two excellent pitchers in junior Melissa Landry and freshman Anna Lengner. Landry managed to return from a serious injury last season to pitch in the state tournament. She had been hospitalized after being struck in the face with a batted ball. Chatham pitchers now wear face guards.
"Pitching will be a strong point for the season," Figueiredo said. "Landry is back healthy, and Lengner's ability is beyond her freshman status. Losing Blanc is big, but Kennedy is moving to second base, and combined with Davies will give us a strong middle infield."
At catcher, Chatham has senior Caroline Viscovich and junior Kelly Krincek. Figueiredo is still sorting through his options in the outfield, with Amelia Hoffman, Sarah Stubeck, Samantha Druhot, Hannah Keeshen and Anya Raadam all in the mix.
"Like any other team, we must execute on defense to be successful, and we'll have to manufacture runs offensively," Figueiredo said. "Kennedy's speed will pressure opponents, and our ability to put the ball in play will determine how successful we'll be offensively."
This is the first head softball coaching position for Figueiredo, but he's done a lot of winning in his 13 seasons as an assistant coach. His resume' includes two JV county championships at two different schools, South Plainfield and Woodbridge, both of which were undefeated seasons, 23-0 in South Plainfield in 2005, and 17-0 in Woodbridge in 2010.
Figueiredo also was an assistant coach for the 2005 Group 3 state champions in South Plainfield, and the 2011 Middlesex County champions in Woodbridge. He is also the head women's soccer coach at Watchung Hills.
"I really like the new coach and I think we're going to do well this year," Kennedy said. "As long as we do what we know how to do, we'll be good."