Area softball teams have high aspirations

Grace Werner will be one of just two seniors on Jasper’s softball roster this season as she brings not only experience but also a tremendous amount of skill in the infield as she will be playing collegiate softball at Bellarmine University next year.

BY JONATHAN SAXON
jsaxon@dcherald.com

As the cold fronts give way to longer, warmer days, area high schools are gearing up for another cycle of softball action. Here’s a quick look at the area teams for the upcoming season.

Jasper Wildcats

Last Season
17-8 overall, lost to Vincennes Lincoln in the sectional.

Opening Game
March 19 at home vs. Linton, 7:00 pm.

Returning Players
Hailey Hurst, Sr. (utility)
Grace Werner, Sr. (second base)
Madison Allen, Jr. (first base/outfield)
Rachel Gress, Jr. (catcher)
Halli Leinenbach, Jr. (utility)
Taylor Mitchell, Jr. (utility)
Madeline Springer, Jr. (utility)
Grace Colvin, Soph. (pitcher/utility)
Emily Heim, Soph. (catcher)
Meredith Hilgefort, Soph. (outfield)
Lexie Jerger, Soph. (utility)
Madison Matheis, Soph. (utility)
Nicole Mehringer, Soph. (utility)
Karley Thomas, Soph. (Utility)

Key Newcomers
Ella Goeppner, Fr. (utility)
Hannah Schwenk, Fr. (shortstop)
Mia Werner, Fr. (pitcher)

Notable: The Wildcats will be fielding a young team this year with sophomores and juniors making up the bulk of their returning players, as well as a bountiful crop of freshmen getting their first taste of varsity experience. However, Jasper coach Matt Pryor said that the practices have been high energy and that the two seniors (Werner and Hurst) have been displaying excellent leadership skills as the team gets ready to take the mound.
Pryor said that with so many young players the immediate challenge is getting everybody comfortable playing together and building that trust so the team can maximize its talent. Another challenge will be guiding along the team as they mature over the course of the season, particularly during times when things don’t go a player’s way. Pryor said he will be sure to let the girls work out their mistakes, and use the times they occur as teachable moments. He wants the girls to be able to pick their head up and know that one bad play doesn’t define them.

On the field, sophomore Grace Colvin will be one of the girls called upon to take the mound for the team. Colvin didn’t see much action last year due to injury, but throws the ball with good movement and control. Freshman Mia Werner will also be in the mix and is looking to use her offseason work and travel ball experience as an eighth grader to make an immediate impact for the Wildcats. In the infield, Grace Werner, who’ll be playing college ball at Bellarmine University next year, will be the anchor at second base as Pryor fills out the rest of the infield with new names and faces. But freshman Hannah Schwenk seems to have the inside track for the shortstop position with her combination of athleticism, arm strength, and range. Sophomore Meredith Hilgefort is slotted at center field, while senior Hailey Hurst will play one of the corners.

Behind the plate, Pryor said there is going to be a shift in the look and feel of Jasper’s offense. In the recent past the Wildcats have been known as a power hitting team. But with the graduation of Lindsay Mehringer, Olivia Knies, Molly Mehringer, and Alexa Stenftenagel the team will be looking at manufacturing their offense with good grounders and line drives to facilitate better baserunning. The goal will be to get girls on base and put pressure on the opponent when it comes to deciding where to throw the ball.

Quotable: “Without a doubt we’re going to be competitive in every game we play,” said Pryor as he talked about expectations for the season. “We’re focused on growing from one game to the next, no matter what the competition is.”

Southridge’s Boo Polley celebrated after the Raiders defeated Washington in the first round of sectional last year. After and 11-14 season, the Raiders have high expectations for the 2018 campaign.

Southridge Raiders

Last Season
11-14 overall, lost to Vincennes Lincoln in sectional semifinals.

Opening Game
Apr. 2 at home vs. Crawford County

Returning Players
Ragon Mitchell, Sr.
Boo Polley, Sr. (pitcher)
Lauren Springer, Sr. (catcher)
Morgan Stapleton, Sr. (infield)
Bre Wilkey, Sr. (pitcher/infield)
Amanda Brewer, Jr. (infield)
Megan Buechler, Jr. (outfield)
Gina Flores, Jr.
Keyshia Kieser, Jr.
Caitlyn Lee, Jr.
Macie Marley, Jr. (second base)
Peyton Nalley, Jr. (outfield)
Ashley Sutton, Jr.
Rachel Trent, Jr. (catcher)
Angel Garrett, Soph.
Kolby Jones, Soph.

Key Newcomers
Abigail Kerkhoff, Fr. (utility)
Briley King, Fr. (pitcher)
Jaime Matthews, Fr.
Kennedy Nalley, Fr.
Makenna Peter, Fr.
Rhiley Peters, Fr.
Madison Songer, Fr. (catcher)

Notable: Southridge coach Doug Collins thinks that this season will be a culmination of sorts for the players on his team. He believes the Raiders, led by a group of five seniors who started as freshmen when he began coaching at Southridge four years ago, have matured their talent and are ready to play their best ball this season. They won their last three regular season games and a sectional game to close out 2017, and will be looking to use that as a foundation to move forward this season.

Collins has put an emphasis on teaching quality at-bats. He wants his batting order to be versatile, and to that effect he said that three girls are able to hit and bunt from both sides of the plate, while another third are able to bring the big swings to send balls over the fence. He also believes the team has the speed to play small ball and put girls on base to frustrate opposing defenses and manufacture runs.

Their defense will led by senior pitchers Bre Wilkey and Boo Polley, who will be the team’s workhorses from the mound. Collins doesn’t think they’ll necessarily overpower anyone’s lineup, but they won’t surrender many walks and will put the ball in spots where the rest of the fielding unit will be able to make plays on any hits. The outfield spots are still up for grabs, as the team has a lot of girls with speed and arm strength to be effective out in space. Along the dirt paths, the corners will be occupied by seniors Morgan Stapleton, Wilkey (when not on the mound), and junior infielder Amanda Brewer. Junior Macie Marley will be taking the reins at second base, and freshman Kennedy Nalley will see time at shortstop.

Quotable: “Our girls feel like this is our year to grab a sectional,” said Collins. “That’s the number one goal at the top of the list; we’re going to come home with some kind of hardware. We definitely will be a contender.”

Forest Park’s Sara Helming attempted to tag out Heritage Hills’ Xiana Scott during their battle last season. Both the Rangers and Pats are looking for bounce back seasons.

Forest Park Rangers

Last Season
9-18 overall, lost to North Posey in the sectional opening round.

Opening Game
Mar. 20 at home vs.  Evansville North.

Returning Players
Taylor Bayer, Sr. (pitcher/infielder)
Lanette Blume, Sr. (pitcher/outfielder)
Sara Helming, Sr. (first base)
Samantha Jarboe, Sr. (outfielder)
Taryn Prechtel, Sr. (third base)
Lydia Hauser, Jr. (first base)
Jordyn Wiseman, Jr. (utility)
Kylie Giesler, Soph. (infielder)
Megan Gogel, Soph. (utility)
Kennedy Sermsersheim, Soph. (catcher)
Sami Stout, soph. (utility)
Amber Theising, soph. (utility)
Mayson VanMeter, Soph. (pitcher)
Ashtyn Welp, Soph. (utility)
Claire Wendholt, Soph. (outfielder)
Allyson Werner, Soph. (pitcher)
Macie Zink, Soph. (catcher)

Notable: Last season was a rough out for Forest Park. Rangers coach Kelly Schroering only had one senior on her young squad last season, and was forced to plug in freshmen in her starting lineup. They also were not helped by a tough schedule and tougher conference. But Schroering said that the early practices with the team have been encouraging, as she sees signs of improvement from last season carrying over into this year. There aren’t any new freshmen coming onboard this season, but most of the team from last year is returning a year older, stronger, and wiser.

Schroering said that the team has the gift of depth, and has not settled on a fixed lineup because players can be effective in so many positions. She wants to use the first few games of the season to do some mixing and matching that will give her a better idea of where to put certain players across the field. But, the teams knows they are capable of playing a clean defensive game no matter who is in the lineup, and Schroering will be looking for production out of her five seniors.

Schroering also envisions her batting order producing a lot of line drives that will go fast and far away. She isn’t saying that the Rangers won’t ever play small-ball, but the focus when the girls come to plate will be putting something over the defenses head, hopefully into dead spots between the dirt and the grass.

Quotable: “(The team) set their goals high,” said Schroering when discussing Forest Park’s expectations. “I’m happy for that, because I think they have the ability to compete and win sectional. That’s always the ultimate goal.”

Kyndal Green (left) and Brooklyn Dodd (right) performed their pregame handshake last season. The two will look to hold down the field and make sure opponents don’t get extra bases.

Northeast Dubois Jeeps

Last Season
12-11 overall, lost to Tecumseh in the sectional semifinals.

Opening Game
March 20 at North Daviess, home opener April 2 vs. Paoli.

Returning Players
Kyndal Green, Sr. (outfield)
Clare Mangin, Sr. (pitcher)
Mackenzie Zehr, Sr. (outfield)
Brooklyn Dodd, Jr. (shortstop)
Addison Kirkhoff, Jr. (catcher/infielder)
Elizabeth Kunz, Jr. (second base)
Camryn Stemle, Jr. (pitcher/infielder)
Adrienne Betz, Soph. (outfielder)
Macie Brinkman, Soph. (infielder)
Makena Evermak, Soph. (utility)
Amberly Jacob, Soph. (catcher/infielder)
Haley Reckelhoff, Soph. (pitcher/outfielder)
Amber Sandler, Soph. (infielder)
Madison Voegerl, Soph. (outfielder)
Courtney Weisheit, Soph. (infielder)

Key Newcomers
Becca Brosmer, Fr. (catcher/infielder)
Alexus Royer, Fr. (pitcher/infielder)
Mia Smith, Fr. (pitcher/infielder)
Kayleigh VanPelt, Fr. (outfielder)

Notable: Northeast Dubois coach Dion Terwiske said last year was an up-and-down season  as the team worked out chemistry issues over the course of the season. But  he thinks that the Jeeps were able to develop a solid group of girls that will serve as the team’s core over the course of the upcoming season. They were able to win a sectional game after all, so they will look to build on that and move forward.

Offensively, the coaches have been working with the team to cultivate a more aggressive approach to their at-bats. Terwiske said he’s been working with his girls in the offseason to give their swings more lift and send pitches over the fences. But he also says there is speed in his batting lineup, but if things work out he wants to see the bombs launched.

For the pitching staff, senior Clare Mangin will be stepping into the role of the anchor on the mound, but junior Camryn Stemle will also be competing for innings over the course of the season. Terwiske is hoping that competition between the two girls brings the best out both of them, which in turn would lead to better results for the Jeeps. They will be focused on putting the ball in play against opposing batters so that the rest of the defense can force outs over the course of an inning.

The rest of the field will be solid up the middle. Brooklyn Dodd will hold down shortstop, while Elizabeth Kunz plays at second base. Kyndal Green will post up in center field, and all the other fielding positions will be built around that trio.  

Quotable: “We want to be competitive and in every game,” said Terwiske, while adding that the main goal of winning the Blue Chip conference title and sectional title is at the forefront of the team’s mind. “We always want to win more games than we did the previous year. If we can build on that we’ll be doing fine.”

Heritage Hills Patriots

Last Season
11-15 overall, lost to Evansville Memorial in the sectional opening round.

Opening Game
Mar. 29 at Evansville Harrison, home opener March 30 vs. Northeast Dubois

Returning Players
Sidney Alcorn, Sr. (infield)
Maddie Fuller, Sr. (outfield)
Meagan Kralj, Sr. (pitcher)
Lauren Caswell, Jr. (first base/shortstop)
Sierra Schipp, Jr.  (catcher/outfield)
Xiana Scott, Jr. (outfield)
Ali Wade, Jr. (catcher)
Whitney Ward, Jr. (outfield)
Mariah Zoglman, Jr.  (second base)
Emma Eubank, Soph. (pitcher)
Miranda Keller, Soph. (pitcher/outfield)
Sydney Richards, Soph. (outfield)
Brianna Quinn, Soph. (third base)
Miley Thomas, Soph. (infield)
Haley Waninger, Soph. (catcher)
Summer Weedman, Soph. (pitcher/infield)

Key Newcomers
Mallory Garrison, Fr.
Lilly Kolley, Fr.
Sara Mangan, Fr.
Kyla Peter, Fr.

Notable: Last year was a sort of trial by fire for Heritage Hills. The Patriots had to plug in new players who hadn’t previously played at the varsity level to deal with injury issues and it caused the team to stumble throughout their season. However, Pats coach Joe Asbury, who is entering his 24th year as head softball coach at Heritage Hills, thinks that the girls still received a lot of positive playing experience and will take to the field more confidently over the course of this year’s campaign. The team is bringing back seven of their nine starters from last season and boasts two returning All-Conference players: junior Lauren Caswell and senior Maddie Fuller, who will be playing softball at Olney Central College next spring.

Asbury believes the batting order has a good mix of power and slappers that will put the ball in play and get players on base. He wants to cut down on the amount of strikeouts the Patriots had last season, but said that some of the girls will have the green light to swing away and the team will live with the results.

The pitching stable of Meagan Kralj (who will play collegiate softball at Rend Lake College) and Emma Eubank will come back to the mound with some experience under their belts and improved velocities as a result of their offseason work in the weight room. Asbury also likes the improvements he has seen in their off-speed pitches, as well as control and ball placement across the plate.

In the infield, Brianna Quinn will hold down third base, Lauren Caswell will probably move from first base to shortstop, and Mariah Zoglman will return to second base. Asbury hasn’t decided who he will use to replace Caswell at first. In the outfield, Maddie Fuller, who Asbury states is the best outfielder he has ever coached, will be an anchor at center field.

Quotable: “We’d like to flip that record, but we want to set our sights a little higher as well,” said Asbury. “We have competed for conference championships in the past, and we want to put ourselves in that position again.”




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