|Wed, Jul 23, 2014 12:10 PM
Lanesville's Erica Daly returns for her fourth straight year in the outfield for the Lady Eagles. File photo by Brian Smith (click for larger version)
April 02, 2014 | 11:45 AM
A pair of Harrison County schools — North Harrison and South Central — will break in new head coaches on the softball diamond this season.
While those leaders fill out their rosters, Lanesville returns in 2014 seeking to carry the momentum of reaching the Class A final four from a year ago. Corydon Central, meanwhile, brings back a team of experienced players.
Lanesville's incredible run reached the semi-state final after winning a regional title with a 7-0 decision against Springs Valley.
All four teams have goals to be ready come postseason.
Here is a preview of the local softball teams.
A fairly seasoned group of Lady Panthers is preparing for the grind of a softball season, seeking to improve upon a 12-16 record from a year ago. Some of the seasoning plays in the middle of the field for Corydon Central.
Senior Payton Windell provides speed and plenty of ground to cover in center field, while classmate Aly Chambers brings athleticism to second base.
"Payton is going to go Division I volleyball," Corydon Central coach Kim Briscoe said. "She has worked religiously and hard in the weight room. Her strength program has helped her immensely."
Windell is a player Briscoe said has spent time on helping the younger players improve. While leading the youth helps, the veteran coach wants to make sure Windell continues to take care of her game as well.
Briscoe pointed to Chambers taking a leadership role on the girls' basketball team this past winter for the Lady Panthers. Both upperclassmen are keys on and off the field.
Playing alongside Chambers in the middle infield is Kristen Alcorn at shortstop. She's held a starting spot since making a splash her freshman year.
"Kristen is a true lead-off hitter," Briscoe said. "We'll find someone to lay down the bunt to move her around. There are a lot of big bats to come up in the middle of our order."
Speed is there as well with not only the returning trio of Windell, Chambers and Alcorn, but players Chelsey Smith (outfield, catcher) and Bailey Money (right field) offer quickness as well.
"Money and Smith are near the bottom of the order, but, at the top, there is speed teams will have to deal with again with Alcorn and Chambers," Briscoe said.
Providing the pop in the middle of the line-up include pitcher Jenna Stiles, first baseman Bethany McClanahan and outfielder/catcher Kaitlyn Logsdon.
"McClanahan and Logsdon, along with Stiles, provide some power for us," Briscoe said. "Logsdon is very athletic and strong but also quick on the bases. McClanahan has a powerful stick."
Inserted at third base is Savana Wiseman, who slides into the position on the varsity level for the first time.
Returning in the circle is Stiles, a lefty twirler for the Lady Panthers.
Her battery-mate will be between Logsdon and Smith. Each are vying to replace four-year letter-winner Kaitlan Money, who was lost to graduation.
"It'll be a rotation between those two. We want Smith to find her bat," Briscoe said of breaking in a new catcher.
For the season, Briscoe said she is "optimistically going to be positive" about where her team is going.
"It's going to be how we learn the lessons along the process of a season," she said. "We can't show up and go through the motions. We need to show up with grit and guts as competitors. When we figure that out, and not just look pretty in our uniform, we can be pretty darn good."
Playing well into the postseason a year ago, the Lanesville program reached the Class A final four, falling to Tecumseh in the North Daviess Semi-state.
With the 17-11 season behind them, the pre-season No. 4-ranked Lady Eagles will have a mix of veteran faces, along with several freshmen vying for playing spots.
"We're going to be young and inexperienced in some positions," Lanesville coach Rusty Cecil said. "If we make mistakes early in the year, that's OK. If we take our bumps, it's OK. When we get healthy and get games under us, we'll continue to improve. We don't have an easy schedule to start."
Key to the success of the Lady Eagles' pitching prowess is seniors Emma Zeller and Robyn Schoen. Both have toed the rubber for four years.
"Emma's statistics speaks for themselves," Cecil said. "I've been blessed since I got this job. We had Robyn's older sister, (Lanesville assistant coach) Ashley, and now these two. It's been a good run of really good pitchers."
It's a balance between the pitchers. Cecil said Zeller's strength is her speed that can over-power batters, while Schoen is effective at hitting spots with various pitches. As the season goes on, each will work on mixing pitches to be more successful.
Another key returnee is centerfielder Erica Daly. She's held the position each of her three years, along with providing speed and power in the batting order.
"When she first came up as a freshman and sophomore, she was all pull," Cecil said. "She's found out that, if she hits the ball out over the plate and not get handcuffed, she has great power to the alleys."
Back at third base is Jessica DeWeese, providing pop in the middle of the order. Schoen and Zeller are slated to rotate between second base and pitcher.
Working in a new shortstop will be key after losing Brooklynn Keinsley to graduation. Junior Annie Parsons steps up from the junior varsity ranks with freshman Laynie Collins as a solid back-up.
"Annie is a hitter that plays pretty good defense," Cecil said. "We'll look to improve her at the situational parts of the game, but her tools are pretty good."
First baseman Mackenzie Schmelz is dealing with an early season injury but returns as the Lady Eagles' top defensive player, making only two errors. Ashley Jones, a strong hitter, will start the season at first.
After injuries sustained in two of the past three seasons, Hannah Conder returns for her senior season. Providing a left-handed bat and speed, Conder plays outfield and first base.
Sliding in the catching role is freshman Regan Walker. Cecil said she has a good arm and mentally knows the game with a quality bat to boot.
A pair of other freshmen — Kately Pavey and McKenzie Randolph — have competed for corner outfield spots. Pavey, however, will miss the first several weeks with a broken finger. Randolph will also pitch in junior varsity games.
"I hate that because (Pavey) was projected to be our lead-off or No. 2 hitter," Cecil said. "She doesn't go 110 percent; she goes 150 percent with everything she does. I've really been impressed with her."
Cecil said the freshman group is good overall and expects their development to pay off in a few years.
Success in the postseason has the team and coaches driven to get back. With some early injuries and working in freshmen, Cecil said a key will be togetherness.
"Last year, we had a lot of experience and they came together and achieved as a team," he said. "These girls are doing pretty good. If they can stay together mentally as a team and do the things they can do, make those routine plays, we'll be fine."
It'll be a youth movement of sorts for North Harrison.
Three players make up the senior class for the Lady Cats, but, without a junior on the roster, many contributors will step to the plate in the freshman and sophomore ranks.
Not only is North Harrison a young team, the Lady Cats also welcome a new coach in Eric Pavey. Taking over the reins in the winter, Pavey said he became acquainted with players during pre-season conditioning. From the conditioning, Pavey came away with positives.
"Work ethic is there after they were put through a pretty rigorous conditioning schedule," Pavey said. "They excelled at that to show me their work ethic is good."
To go along with the conditioning standards, Pavey has pushed the "team" aspect.
Leadership is coming from the trio of seniors: Kenedy House, Katie Freeberg and Marlaina Eveslage.
"Those seniors are busting their butts thus far," Pavey said. "They've really taken on what I want to accomplish with the younger girls. We're very young, but the seniors have taken a great lead."
House will be a key leader on the field as well. Inserted in the heart of the order, House provides not only power, but a smooth glove in the middle infield. She's an All-Mid-Southern Conference performer who recently committed to play next season at Wabash Valley Community College.
During conditioning, Pavey had players write down team and individual goals, with House's to personally become a more vocal leader.
"In the past, she stood back, but now she is a more vocal leader, which I like," Pavey said. "We need that on and off the field. She leads by showing it, too. The effort she puts in every practice and conditioning shows to the underclassmen what it takes. She dives for balls all the time."
Freeberg has played various spots in the outfield and looks to lock up one of the spots, while Eveslage is competing for an infield position.
Although there are no juniors, several sophomores played as freshmen. Jourdan McAfee saw time in center, while Kaylin Bright played in the infield. Also returning is pitcher Brittany Rudolph. As a team, the Lady Cats were 13-15 a year ago.
"They learned through their freshmen time, they grew up quick and have experience we need," Pavey said. "Because of our numbers, we'll play some freshmen."
The first-year coach said a few freshmen are in the mix to twirl innings while they also battle for spots on the field. Competition is something Pavey wants to push the girls.
"They win their spot every day at practice," he said. "We want to breed competition with one another."
Overall, Pavey believes speed and aggressive play will be keys to securing wins.
Ready to peel off the layers of clothes needed during the preseason for the comforts of a standard uniform is the South Central program.
Coming off a 5-12 season from a year ago, Katie Crecelius takes over the program, seeking to get the Lady Rebels above the .500 mark.
"We've had two good weeks of practice thus far," Crecelius said. "We've gone outside most of the time. Overall, the girls have worked really hard knowing that we technically have 13 days of practice before our first game."
Crecelius, who previously was an assistant coach and former player at Cory- don Central, said the practices "have been intense but they've done a great job adjusting."
One of the early strengths the rookie coach sees thus far is power. Offensively, the team returns hitters with the ability to put the ball in play with some authority. One of the cogs in the middle of the order is veteran Victoria Sallee. Slated to play in the infield, the senior brings a big bat to the line-up.
Another experienced player returning is Vivian Temple; she'll play a middle infield position. The senior will be joined by not only Sallee in her class, but also Chelsea Flannery and German-exchange student Sandy Wagner.
"Victoria and Vivian played a lot last year, while Chelsea Flannery is coming back after a year away," Crecelius said. "With those three, we have a lot of good leadership. They are great leaders on and off the field. They'll be the keys for us offensively. I'm excited to see them in the line-up."
Temple and Sallee look to play infield spots, while Flannery will likely serve as a designated hitter.
Within hitting practices, Crecelius has liked what she sees out of the team.
"They've hit it well and far," she said. "I'm anxious to see it in live game action and game situations."
In the outfield, Crecelius said there is speed and good arm strength with Jasmine Nalley and Emily Miller.
Leading the way in the circle is junior Haley Shaffer, who had pitched the previous two seasons.
"Haley Shaffer has done a great job thus far," Crecelius said. "She worked really hard in the offseason and is ready to pitch a great season. We're counting on her, and I think she'll do great."
On the whole, the Lady Rebels increased the schedule load to more than 20 games. While the roster is in the mid-teens, Crecelius said the goal is to build up the program.
"We don't have many underclassmen, so we are looking to get involved in the youth programs more," she said. "We want girls to get excited about softball."
For the season, Crecelius said the goal is to have a winning percentage and have the girls play to their potential.
"We want to clean up small mistakes," she said. "We talk a lot about being successful as a team."