Softball teams prep for openers
Local softball teams in Harrison County seem to always be in the mix come postseason play.
This week, previews take a look at Corydon Central and North Harrison programs (Lanesville and South Central will be previewed next week). The Lady Panthers last won sectional hardware in 2010, while North Harrison coupled its 2012 sectional into a regional title.
Here is a preview of both squads for the 2015 season:
The 2015 version of the Lady Panthers’ softball team seeks to combine the veteran leadership of four seniors with an influx of youthful talent.
‘There are four seniors that will play a very vital role in our success,’ Corydon Central coach Kim Briscoe said. ‘We have 26 out, which is more than other programs from what I hear.’
All four seniors ‘ Kristin Alcorn, Bethany McClanahan, Jenna Stiles and Savanna Wiseman ‘ were key contributors last season. Many have had varsity roles since they were freshmen and sophomores as well.
One area Briscoe will have depth at is pitching. That luxury hasn’t been part of the Corydon Central softball program often. Stiles, a Transylvania University signee, twirled each inning last year, going 12-12. The lefty will have some help in the circle.
‘We have five pitchers pitching right now, so there will be some pitching depth,’ Briscoe said. ‘There are some youngsters, four freshmen, that can pitch. There is a lot of promise … I’ve never had multiple pitchers. I’ve thought about using a starter and closer, but you have to pick the right time to do it.’
Stiles and Alcorn return to the lineup as two of the top bats. As a team, the Lady Panthers knocked out 18 home runs but half belonged to Payton Windell, who graduated in 2014. Stiles, a .410 hitter, had four bombs, while Alcorn had two while hitting .322.
Alcorn is switching positions in the infield, shifting from shortstop to the hot corner.
‘She may move from lead-off to third in the lineup because she is stronger and has power,’ Briscoe said. ‘That happens when you grow from a freshman to senior year. She’s all about the team and success. She’s open to playing two positions.’
Wiseman can play outfield along with third base, while McClanahan holds down first base.
‘McClanahan has worked pretty hard in the offseason and has nailed down first base again,’ Briscoe said. ‘Jenna can pitch, but also play first base or DP (designated player) and not have to pitch every game.’
Briscoe said she has a simple message for the senior group: ‘It’s about those seniors enjoying their senior year.’
Returning juniors include Chelsey Smith, making the move back to catcher for the Lady Panthers. Bailey Money hit near .300 as a sophomore and takes over center-field duties; she’s also able to play some infield.
‘We have a lot of utility position players, something we haven’t had in the past,’ Briscoe said. ‘It’s exciting because it presents an opportunity to change the lineup around.’
Sophomore Morgan Nalley, who hit a pair of homers last season while hitting .310, is out with a knee injury.
‘That’s a big loss because she’s a good outfielder and a big stick in the lineup we won’t have,’ Briscoe said.
Then there is the freshmen group. Twelve came out for the team, and some will have an impact on the varsity right away.
‘We have a few freshmen that will light up some eyes, especially the Oskin twins (Sydney and Kayleigh),’ Briscoe said. ‘They are middle infielders and pitchers. They play 12 months of the year and will be a big factor in our system for sure.’
During the offseason workouts and spring practices, Briscoe complimented the collection of girls thus far.
‘They are great kids, and there is a real spirit in there during the preseason,’ she said. ‘It’s something we haven’t seen in a long time.’
Briscoe believes spectators will enjoy what the Lady Panthers have to offer.
‘We’re going to be fun, exciting and fast,’ she said. ‘We’ll be a smarter softball team. We’ll do our best to keep teams off-balance by using our smarts and quickness.’
The Lady Cats provided plenty of pop off the aluminum last season, clubbing 26 home runs as a team. Then, North Harrison was fairly young, playing a host of freshmen and sophomores.
That core is back, but the Lady Cats will be without one notable bat, four-year player Kenedy House, who graduated last year after hitting nine dingers as a senior.
Taking over the coaching duties is Mark Lamon. This will be his first full year as a head coach. He previously was an assistant at Holy Cross in Kentucky last year. Prior to that, Lamon took over the North Harrison program mid-season in 2013 after five years as a Lady Cats assistant coach.
‘Coaching at Holy Cross, I was able to see different competition and styles of play,’ Lamon said. ‘I took a lot of things away, but I am happy to be back at North Harrison.’
One of the luxuries Lamon sees with the program is depth, despite not having a senior on the roster. There are seven juniors and seven sophomores along with eight freshmen.
‘There is a lot of depth and, at practice, they all are pushing each other,’ Lamon said. ‘There is a lot of quality with the depth. When we went to the semi-state, we weren’t very deep. There are some freshmen that have impressed me, and our feeder program has good groups, too.’
Once again, North Harrison will look inexperienced on paper.
‘We start the year with no seniors,’ Lamon said. ‘Kenedy was a big loss, but many of our juniors and sophomores played a lot of games last year.’
One player who caught Lamon’s attention quickly is junior Kaylin Bright.
‘She can be a star,’ he said. ‘We’re moving her back to the infield after she caught last year. She has a real power bat.’
Sliding back into the catcher’s spot is junior Brittany Rudolph, who pitched some as a sophomore.
In the circle, Lamon said his team entered the spring with competition between two freshmen and two sophomores for roles on the pitching staff. Lacie Smith and Gracie Troncin are the second-year players who saw time pitching a year ago.
‘Lacie pitched really well in the sectional and gained valuable experience,’ Lamon said.
Among the other key juniors is Jourdan McAfee.
‘She’s started since her freshman year,’ Lamon said. ‘She’ll play center field for us and can play the position really well. She gives us a lot of options at the plate with her speed.’
Bright, McAfee and Rudolph each clubbed three homers last season.
Other returning juniors include Aspen Luther, Laken Coughenauer, Makaila Bruner and Bailey Adams.
In the sophomore class, Lamon described Kyia Oppel as a ‘line-drive hitter’ who hit near .400 as a freshman.
Outfielder Abby Bozynski also returns after a four-homer season as a rookie. Kodi House, another returnee, saw action in the infield as a freshman as well. Sophomore Alaina Sears also contributed a year ago.
‘When I left as the coach, these girls were in eighth grade and freshmen,’ Lamon said. ‘They were deer in headlights then. Now, at the first practice, they were talking and being loud. That’s nice to see. They really are working together so far.’
There will be a challenging schedule ahead, including a trip to the Jasper Invitational and a three-way at Bedford North Lawrence in early April. With the depth, Lamon said they’ve added junior varsity games, including a tournament at Holy Cross.
‘There is a lot of talent, and it’s a good problem to have,’ Lamon said. ‘I’m ready to get going and see where they stack up.’