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Lady Eagles, NH return several key bats

Lady Eagles, NH return several key bats
Lady Eagles, NH return several key bats
North Harrison third baseman Melanie Johnson is part of Lady Cats team that is coming off a regional championship. Photo by Brian Smith (click for larger version)

The North Harrison softball team is coming of a program best regional championship season. Lanesville, meanwhile is seeking to get back to a shot at regional.
Here is a preview of both teams.
Figuring to be in the hunt once again for a Class A and Southern Athletic Conference title, the Lanesville softball team returns plenty of experience.
Starting in the circle, the Lady Eagles pack a one-two punch in juniors Emma Zeller and Robyn Schoen. The duo combined for 16 wins a year ago.
‘We feel pitching is our strength,’ Lanesville coach Rusty Cecil said.
Both pitchers previously have been All-SAC mentions. Zeller enters with an ERA under one while she struck out 137 last year.
Cecil said Zeller has more speed, while Schoen has the ability to mix up her pitches.
‘We want Robyn to mix it up a little more,’ he said. ‘We’re working on her secondary pitches, the curves, drop and change to throw for strikes on the first pitch.’
Plenty of other players return as well after graduating three, including a full time outfielder.
The defensive alignment changes depending on who is pitching. When Zeller isn’t in the circle, she’ll take over the duties of third base, while Schoen, likewise, will play second when not twirling.
All-SAC returnee Jessica DeWeese is penciled to play the corner infield positions, depending the pitcher. When Schoen toes the rubber, Hannah Conder takes over at first base.
Taking up the middle infield position is veteran shortstop Brooklynn Keinsley, while Morgan Williams will rotate between second base and the outfield.
Locked into center field is All-SAC performer Erica Daly, a speedy player who covers plenty of ground.
‘Besides Erica, the other two outfield positions are up for grabs,’ Cecil said.
Competing for the spots are Rachel Gary, Anna Gronotte and Tara Borders, along with Williams and Conder, depending on the pitcher.
‘I tell the girls that, if they are producing, we’ll go with them; if not, we’ll get another one in the mix,’ Cecil said.
Twenty-seven girls make up the program, leading to the Lady Eagles fielding a junior varsity schedule to develop younger talent.
Moving from the infield to the catcher’s role is All-SAC performer Amanda Pavey.
‘She’s got experience catching, and she has worked really hard to get ready for the season,’ Cecil said.
In the preseason, the Lady Eagles have only practiced on the field three times, according to Cecil, due to the inclement weather. He said they’ve worked over and over on defensive repetition, going over game situations.
‘It’s hard to fully simulate indoors, but we’re doing what we can,’ he said.
Offensively, Lanesville has a balanced attack. Conder offers a left-handed bat at the top of the order. Williams fits in the order as a strong bunt option, while the middle of the line-up is clogged by returning leading hitter Schoen and Daly, a slugger.
‘Pavey and DeWeese are pretty strong, too,’ Cecil said. ‘We feel pretty good about our bats, but it’s adjusting to swinging at strikes.’
Lanesville is ready to get the season going, and Cecil believes the team is ready for a good year.
‘If we get a little tighter as a group, we’ll be pretty good,’ Cecil said. ‘They have talent, but it’s understanding we all have the same goals.’
North Harrison
The Lady Cats softball team went on a heck of a ride a year ago, winning the program’s first regional title.
While the patches on jackets and a photo on the gymnasium wall provide the excitement of the post-season run, the focus is on this year.
‘We’re staying away from comparing this team to last year’s team because we’re different,’ North Harrison coach John Lambert said, adding there are talented freshmen in the program to go with the experienced seniors who return.
Lost to graduation were a trio of players, two of whom pitched (Alyssa McAfee and Miranda Whelan) and the other caught (Amber Longest).
‘It’ll be a different look this year after losing three key seniors and a couple other would-be returnees that are not playing for various reasons,’ Lambert said.
Back, however, is the entire starting infield: from third base over, Melanie Johnson, Kendra Lambert, Kenedy House and Brooke Lamon.
‘We return four starters, and practice is tight for the other spots,’ coach Lambert said. ‘It’s a good group to start with.’
With the experience of the infield back, Lambert believes the group can lead by example.
‘Looking at past seasons, the batting averages of our four returning players are pretty solid,’ he said. ‘We’re going to lean on them a lot. We need them and the others to play clean.’
Stepping into the circle is junior Jaclyn Swanson, who gained exposure in the past at the junior varsity level. Lambert mentioned a few freshmen in the mix to twirl innings.
‘Jaclyn is going to see how different the level is from JV to varsity,’ Lambert said. ‘She’ll go through some growing, but I’m confident in her.’
Among the other players back who saw varsity action last year is Bri Lampton and Katie Freeberg. Both saw time at outfield positions.
Lamon and Johnson are two of the team’s seniors, along with Destiny Tindall, who makes the jump to varsity this season.
Numbers overall are on the low side for the program (19) but allows each player to get action either on the varsity or junior varsity level. Getting playing time and seeing game action and scenarios for each won’t be a problem, according to Lambert.
‘I feel good about the team we’ve got this year,’ he said. ‘They are a good group of kids, and I think it will take time to figure out what we have. I think once we’ve played two or three weeks, we’ll get a feel of what we’ve got.’
Competition is going at a few open spots, with plenty of time to sort out line-ups.
‘We have a full 28-game schedule to get better,’ Lambert said. ‘We have time to work on how our sub patterns are going to be, who is going where if we make a pitching change. I hope by the end of the year we are playing our best softball.’
The success of last year has made an impact on the program as a whole.
‘It seems to have the most impact at the junior high level,’ Lambert said.
North Harrison will field two junior high teams, which the coach says will help the program.
At the varsity level, the goal is to find an identity.
‘We hope, by the end of the season, these kids will produce another post-season run,’ Lambert said.