Genoa girls’ softball team members have put the holidays behind them and are shifting focus to Spring Break training.
“I’m looking for the girls to do some team bonding while having the chance to play against some other quality players from around the country,” Comets coach Jeff Eisenbrandt said in a New Year’s Eve interview.
In late fall, Genoa Board of Education approved the team’s travel to the Cal Ripken Training Center in South Carolina.
Eisenbrandt requested permission for the trip at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year. School board members put off a decision until they could check with the insurance company representatives regarding liability issues, Schools Superintendent Dennis Mock explained in December.
“The insurance company said it was OK,” Mock said.
Through fundraisers such as a bus trip to Greektown Casino, the girls and coach raised the $5,200 needed to cover the facility training and hotel arrangements, Eisenbrandt said.
The next hurdle is gathering funds to cover the travel expenses, he said.
Some of those travel funds will come about through fees collected by Eisenbrandt for pitching and hitting lessons held weekends for elementary students this winter.
Most likely, he’ll rent vans to transport the 13 to 16 athletes (mostly varsity players and some floaters between the varsity and junior varsity teams) to the eastern seaboard destination.
“We looked into getting buses - but they are just too expensive,” Eisenbrandt explained.
Team members will join other athletes from across the United States at the Cal Ripken Training Facility in Myrtle Beach. The complex boasts seven fields and features a training island that will have three Ripken-designed infield training circles, bullpen mounds, batting cages and bunting stations.
This year will be Eisenbrandt’s third year at the helm of the Comets fast-pitch softball team. The team last took a trip to Florida sometime before his hiring.
He hopes the trip makes the six returning seniors as well as the underclassmen a more cohesive unit ready for the challenges of the new season.
“Last year was a building year,” Eisenbrandt said. “I am hoping to build on that growth and carry it in over into the new year. The freshmen will be a big help in the outfield.”
Eisenbrandt took over leadership of the Comets team in 2011. Prior to that, he had coached junior varsity at Anthony Wayne in 2008 and Perrysburg in 2009 and 2010. His resume also includes coaching a traveling team for the Wizards organization in Toledo.
Expectations remain high following the storied career of his predecessor, Tom Kontak.
Kontak’s softball teams posted a 167-52 overall record in eight seasons dating back to 2003.
His teams won Suburban Lakes League titles in 2006 and 2007 and earned SLL runner-up honors from 2003 to 2009.
In that time, the teams also collected seven sectional championships, one district title in 2006, four district runner-up finishes, one regional championship and one D-III state final four appearance.
Eisenbrandt is not sure how many students in all will turn out for softball tryouts this season.
“It’s getting kind of tight now,” he said of the inflow of new blood. “Genoa is a smaller community and the girls play a lot of multiple sports.”
Still, he is encouraged and excited by what he sees overall in the community. And that is what especially drives him to make the hitting and pitching camps available to the younger girls. Exposure at earlier ages can only benefit the athlete pool, Eisenbrandt added.