Posted on

Squads prep for openers

All four Harrison County softball teams ‘ Corydon Central, Lanesville, North Harrison and South Central ‘ began practicing March 7 for the upcoming season. All look to build some momentum heading into conference play and the postseason tournament.
Here is a preview of all four teams (baseball preview will appear next week):
Corydon Central
The Lady Panthers finished two games under .500 last season, but the influx of young talent along with experienced returnees has coach Kim Briscoe itching to see her lineup pan out.
Touting 16 players in the program, the Lady Panthers won’t field a junior varsity team, but the roster is full of softball knowledge and talent.
‘It’s a pretty softball savvy group,’ Briscoe said. ‘They play a lot over the summer. Our kids are pretty quick, and we are looking to be a more explosive team.’
Three seniors return: catcher Chelsey Smith, outfielder Bailey Money and utility player Hanna Seacat.
‘Chelsey Smith, Bailey Money are our returning starting seniors,’ Briscoe said. ‘Hanna Seacat is a senior who, last year, was our utility player, pinch hitter. She’s a good contact hitter.’
Smith is one of the players who has come along through the years with her bat. Briscoe said many on her roster work hard on the offseason, taking hitting lessons to get up to speed before the high school season begins.
‘It has paid off visually to me, because I see the girls hitting well early in the season,’ Briscoe said.
The junior group features Morgan Nalley and Tatum Bratcher. Nalley missed her sophomore campaign recovering from knee surgery after a freshman year that showed her potential at the plate.
‘Nalley back is a good thing. She’s an outfielder and worked hard in the offseason with her hitting,’ Briscoe said. ‘I thought she would be timid, but she’s not. She’s being aggressive.’
Among the sophomores are twin sisters Kayleigh and Sydney Oskin. Each will be called upon to pitch and play the middle infield. Sydney earned All-Mid-Southern Conference honors as a freshman.
‘The Oskins play the game with their actions,’ Briscoe said. ‘They get on each other more than they do anyone else. It’s comical at times.’
There is a host of freshmen battling for positions as well. Amelia Yeager is a pitcher figuring into the rotation with the Oskins.
‘We have a ton of talented freshmen,’ Briscoe said. ‘We’re working on our power hitters. We have a freshman in Grace Carver who probably hits the ball as well as any of my power hitters in previous years. She’ll step right in to third base and a back-up catcher.’
Briscoe expects youth to be an issue early on but will come together as the season progresses.
‘Sometimes you play like a freshman because you are,’ Briscoe said. ‘This group of freshmen are coming in a little ahead of the freshmen in the past because they have played so much ball … It’s hard to mention the freshmen kids because I haven’t seen them in games.’
Briscoe is excited to host the Class 3A Sectional this spring and, along with it, made several field improvements.
‘There has been a lot of community support by putting signs on the field,’ the coach said. ‘We have more funds this year than I’ve had in 10 years with the great contributions. We’re greatly appreciative of that.’
The Lady Eagles welcome a new coach to the dugout in Eric Pavey. A former coach at North Harrison two seasons ago, Pavey succeeds Rusty Cecil, who resigned in the winter.
Although new to coaching Lanesville, Pavey is a teacher at the school and spent a few years coaching the middle school program. Many of those athletes are current high school players.
‘I’ve inherited a good nucleus,’ Pavey said. ‘The program has been successful in the past. Coach Cecil had a lot of success here. It’s a new system and dealing with a new coach for the girls, but we’ll learn to adapt to change.’
Only two seniors fill out the Lanesville roster, and one ‘ Michaela Behr ‘ is a returning starter. Hannah Walther also returns to the program for her senior year.
‘Behr brings experience of playing on a sectional championship team when she was a freshman,’ Pavey said. ‘She is an outfielder with a good attitude. She came to me offering to (play catcher) to add depth there. She brings a team-first mentality.’
The big core for Lanesville is in the junior group. Of the nine juniors listed, three make up the center of the field, an area Pavey points out as a strength.
Catcher Regan Walker and shortstop Laynie Collins had starts to their sophomore seasons slowed by injury. Both are back and healthy to stabilize the defense.
In centerfield, Katelyn Pavey roams the grass and serves as the top returning hitter.
‘Laynie is stable in the middle, and her bat has been really good,’ Pavey said. ‘Regan is healthy, and her mobility behind the plate has improved. She’s always hit well.’
Katelyn Pavey is likely slotted to continue at the lead-off spot.
‘She’s a good contact hitter, and I look for her to be a more vocal leader,’ the coach said. ‘In years past, she’s always led by example, but she needs to be more vocal.’
One of Lanesville’s most versatile weapons is junior Mickey Randolph. Pavey said her athleticism and knowledge of the game allows her to play multiple positions.
‘Mickey gives us the ability to play different combinations,’ Pavey said. ‘She can be seen in the outfield, infield, at first base or on the mound.’
Shelby Adams spent part of last season catching when Walker was injured but shifts to get a look at third base with sophomore Danielle Brown, a Crawford County transfer.
Competition for positions has been open to all. Returning juniors Peyton Sonner and Nia Tomes have earned looks on the infield. The junior class also features Klaire Henke and Olivia Romeo.
‘This year you are going to see some changes in positions,’ Pavey said. ‘One thing we’ve done this year is create a depth chart. We explained to the girls they can move up and down, but it is up to them in how they practice and play in games. It’s a process.’
Back in the circle is sophomore Katelyn Hurley. She twirled several of Lanesville’s games as a freshman, joined by Randolph in eating up innings.
Pavey also has pushed to deepen the pitching depth with Hurley, Randolph, Brown and Romeo as options.
‘We have four established pitchers that can throw strikes,’ Pavey said. ‘We want them to throw the ball over the plate and play good defense.’
Mackenzie Miller, a freshman, is looking for varsity time on the infield, Pavey said.
For style of play, expect the Lady Eagles to be aggressive.
‘My style is to put the ball in play so good things will happen,’ Pavey said. ‘We talk about quality at-bats and being aggressive on the base paths. We want to put pressure on the defense and limit our mistakes.’
Pavey said the remaining coaching staff has a good understanding and respect from the players. Girls’ basketball coach and former baseball coach Kevin Smith, boys’ basketball coach Mikel Miller, Lanesville Middle School softball coach Jody Jones and David Pavey fill the staff.
North Harrison
Returning eight starters from a 16-win team, North Harrison figures to be a player in the Mid-Southern Conference this spring.
Add in the continual rise in softball interest at the Ramsey campus and the Lady Cats seemed poised to be good for several years.
‘We’ve had big numbers come out for the high school team and 31 in the middle school program,’ second-year coach Mark Lamon said. ‘It’s made the competition in practice crazy. They are going at it.’
There are four seniors then a good group of juniors (six), sophomores (five) and 10 to 11 freshmen.
‘We have a good group of freshmen. There are a couple of freshmen pushing some of our older kids,’ Lamon said. ‘You are seeing a little more out of kids knowing positions aren’t grounded due to our depth. It’s good to see the girls push.’
Despite going through a series of coaching changes throughout their high school careers, the senior nucleus of Jourdan McAfee, Brittany Rudolph, Makaila Bruner and Kaylin Bright have stuck together.
‘They have been through a lot, but they are still out here working their butts off,’ Lamon said. ‘You can see they want a good senior year. The way last year ended left a bad taste in their mouth.’
Around the infield, Bright handles third base while Bruner is on the opposite side at first. Rudolph found a home behind the plate last year while from her position she can spot McAfee covering ground in center field.
‘She is one of the better centerfielders I have ever coached,’ Lamon said of McAfee. ‘The kid gets to everything. It’s hard to believe she’s a senior now. We have a freshman waiting in the wings to take over in center, and we’ll have Jourdi groom her throughout the season.’
Up the middle, juniors Kyia Oppel and Alaina Sears handle shortstop and second, respectively.
Flanking McAfee in the outfield is likely to be junior Kodi House in right with a few options in left, including returning junior Abby Bozynski. Several young players have pushed for outfield roles, according to Lamon.
Last season, Lamon said the pitching staff went through ups and downs. Returning in the circle are junior Lacie Smith and sophomore Lindsey Swanson.
There has been an addition to the staff, freshman Grace Sims.
‘Grace has come in and shown she is all business,’ Lamon said. ‘The other pitchers have worked hard in the offseason, too. It gives us a chance to work Grace in and see how she adjusts to high school ball. She’s played a lot of travel ball so she has game experience, but high school is a little different.’
McAfee, Bright, Oppel and Rudolph return as All-MSC performers. They are also bats that put the ball in play near the heart of the order.
‘We should be a very good hitting team,’ Lamon said. ‘Kyia Oppel, I’m expecting big things from her this year along with the rest of them. Bright and Rudolph don’t do a lot of travel ball, but they come out swinging and hit the ground running.’
Due to depth, Lamon said they’ve split practices to make sure younger players gain enough repetitions. Returning for a second season, the coach said he’s more acclimated to the players and vice versa.
‘We walked right into the first practices and got going,’ he said. ‘Last year we were getting to know one another. I knew some of the girls but not all. Now we are fast into game situations. We’ve hit the ground running.’
South Central
The Lady Rebels graduated two seniors off a 5-13 season a year ago. Entering the third year under coach Katie Crecelius, South Central seeks to keep the win total trend on an upward trek.
‘With only two seniors graduating last year, we are looking at seven starters back,’ Crecelius said.
One of the graduate holes left was in the circle. Sophomore Sydney Lewis twirled some innings last year, but her workload is set to increase this spring.
‘She pitched some last year and did pretty well,’ Crecelius said. ‘She’ll be one of our main pitchers.’
A quality arm, Crecelius said the coaching staff is working to build Lewis’ confidence and endurance.
‘Sidney is really hard on herself,’ the coach said. ‘She works hard in the offseason, so I am anxious to see her take on this role. Sidney didn’t pitch a lot last year, but we were able to work with her and build some confidence.’
Another pitching option is one of South Central’s two seniors, Sabra Walker. A year ago, Walker used her left-handed glove to cover at first base. Although she hasn’t pitched in several years, Crecelius said Walker is open to coming out of pitching ‘retirement’ to give the team depth on the rubber.
‘Sabra is a very easy player to move around,’ Crecelius said. ‘She can play various positions. Sabra is a good vocal leader, one of those great kids that does what her team needs her to do.’
There is experience up the middle, too. Roaming centerfield is another senior, Oakley Taylor. A strong bat in the middle of the order, Taylor is reliable in the outfield.
A quick glove at shortstop, Maddie Mellick returns for her junior season.
‘There is a lot of good field leadership in the middle of the field with Maddie, Oakley and (catcher) Jordan (Renn),’ Crecelius said. ‘They are not only vocal leaders, but also good teachers. We had some girls come out for the team that have never played, and those girls have taught them well so far.’
Renn is back as well behind the plate. She’ll be catching sophomore classmate Lewis.
The team’s only other junior is Katie Shoemaker. She is a utility option who played the corner outfield spot a year ago. Coach said Shoemaker possesses one of the team’s best bunting options in the box.
Twelve players make up the roster, including four freshmen and four sophomores.
‘We have a few positions up for grabs, but, at the same time, I feel good about our lineup,’ Crecelius said. ‘There is a lot of young talent. We had a good group of freshmen come out this year. I’m excited about that. They are working hard.’
The coach said the group is ‘low-key, come here and practice hard for two hours and want to be here.’