News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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April 21, 2014

From Panther to Pomeroy

Burnham, others from Valley lead Woods to No. 1

TERRE HAUTE — If the name Sarah Burnham sounds familiar, it should.

As a Riverton Parke sophomore in June 2010, she batted third and played second base as the Panthers edged Indianapolis Lutheran 1-0 to capture the IHSAA Class A state title at Ben Davis.

Since then, her teams haven’t been nearly as successful.

But Burnham — a sophomore again, but this time at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College — hopes that will change in the next few weeks.

Now a first baseman/pitcher for the 21-13 Pomeroys — ranked No. 1 in the nation in the U.S. Collegiate Athletic Association — Burnham plans on her new team faring well in the USCAA national tournament May 11 to 14 at Akron, Ohio.

She wants her current school to feel the same championship joy that her high school experienced four years ago.

First-year Woods coach Mark Feller, who previously coached softball at West Lafayette High School for five seasons and for the Indiana Chaos summer travel team (but never at a college), feels the same way because of the relationships he’s quickly built since he replaced the retiring Gary Rodgers during the offseason.

“It’s been a blast for me here,” Feller told the Tribune-Star after his Pomeroys swept Rose-Hulman 10-0 and 11-1 in a doubleheader last week. “It’s a learning experience, but it’s been good so far. The chemistry on the team has been good. These are hard-working young ladies, and coach Rodgers had laid very solid groundwork here.”

Feller, 49, said he was convinced to apply for the The Woods’ coaching position by two of his former Indiana Chaos players, Shelby Barnett and Carly Painter, who are now SMWC seniors.

He admits his job has been made easier by having quality players such as Burnham, who had already signed to attend The Woods shortly before he came aboard.

“The kid’s always smiling,” Feller said of Burnham. “She’s easy to talk to … [she] always has kind words for everybody. Besides being a tremendous softball player, we couldn’t ask for a better teammate.”

Burnham isn’t the only Woods player with a Wabash Valley high school background. Others are sophomore Rebecca Latta (Terre Haute South), freshman Ciara McClain (West Vigo) and freshman Emma Riffe (Rockville).

“All four of them are contributing,” Feller emphasized. “Rebecca is a very hard-working young lady. She’s proved this year that she’s worthy of starting. She’s hitting well and plays a very solid outfield.

“Ciara’s a great teammate and probably one of the nicest young people I’ve ever run across in my life. She’s got a great work ethic.

“Emma’s probably my biggest surprise. When you look at the kid, she’s not very big in stature [about 5-feet-4], but she’s a heckuva softball player. … I just recently made her my full-time shortstop.”

Leading offensive contributors for the Pomeroys include junior Kirby Schuble (.370 batting average with three home runs and 20 runs batted in), Burnham (.361, two homers, 12 doubles, five triples, 24 runs and 19 RBI), Barnett (.356, two homers, 13 doubles, 33 runs and 17 RBI), junior Brooke Jordan (.346 and 23 RBI) and Painter (.339, three homers, 11 doubles, 31 runs and 23 RBI).

The Woods’ primary pitchers are Jordan (12-6 with a 3.41 earned-run average and 105 strikeouts) and Burnham (9-7, 3.98 ERA and 97 strikeouts).

So it should be obvious that the addition of Burnham to the roster has helped considerably.

“Mainly, I was homesick and I wanted to be close to home,” the 2012 Riverton Parke graduate said, explaining why she transferred from Wabash Valley College to SMWC last summer. “I was like two hours away [from home]. St. Mary seemed like it would fit my needs. And my mom [Sally Burnham] went here.”

So far, Sarah Burnham thinks she made the right move.

“All around, I love it,” she insisted. “I love the school. Everyone’s nice. The teachers are always willing to help.

“And then on the field, it’s a great time. It’s the best part of my day. Coach [Feller], he’s great. The girls are awesome. I’m really blessed.”

The Woods will return to action Tuesday with a 3:30 p.m. home doubleheader against Robert Morris-Springfield.

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