Pats hope to return to semistateMarch 19, 2020
By COREY STOLZENBACH
LINCOLN CITY — In a time in which a cloud of uncertainty is taking over the local sports landscape due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Heritage Hills softball awaits its future.
The Patriots are off for multiple weeks, and Coach Joe Asbury told the Herald through a text on Sunday that the administration will make a decision on practices after that.
"I sure hope this works out for our seniors' sake," Asbury said in his text.
If things do all work out, Heritage Hills will be tasked with trying to follow up from last year's history making season. The Pats won a regional championship for the first time in history in 2019, and will look to see how far they can go, but Asbury knows it won't be easy.
"We've had the same similar goals for a long time," he said. "We've had some good teams over the course of the last few years. We're always wanting to compete for conference, and we're always wanting to compete for a sectional, and we feel like if we can get out of our sectional — whoever wins our sectional has a chance at regional."
Many players are back from last year's run to semistate. One who isn't is the graduated Lauren Caswell, who was named an All-State player from the Indiana Coaches of Girls Sports Association in 2019.
Asbury talked about senior Summer Weedman as a potential replacement for Caswell at first base this season, but there isn't just one person who can replace Caswell's bat. Every returner on the team is expected to raise their batting average from a season ago and the newcomers are asked to pull their weight as well.
"If everybody contributes, then that will add up to fill in that void of her graduating," Asbury said.
Heritage Hills has six freshmen on its roster: Emma Day, Sarah Day, Olivia Susnjara, Mia Sanford, Jenna McDowell and Alana Ebert. Asbury was about happy how they were going into the program and that they can contribute.
He did not know just how many could break in and contribute right away, but the opportunity presents itself. They could be slotted into those position following the graduation of second baseman Mariah Zoglman, and catcher Sierra Schipp. The Pats have their options and competition for those spots.
Asbury touted McDowell and Susnjara as candidates to take over at second, but added senior Sydney Richards could move in from right field to take that spot. He said Sarah Day has had a good preseason and is a prospect to take over duties behind the plate, as is Ebert, but said senior Hayley Waninger has prior experience as a catcher, too.
If and when Heritage Hills plays softball this season, it will have an NCAA Division I signee in the circle. Emma Eubank signed with Ball State University back in December. Asbury is hoping will be able to relax and enjoy her senior year with the recruiting process behind her.
"Working with her this winter and now into the preseason, it seems like she's relaxed and focused on being a good teammate for us," he said.
The Pats have different kinds of leaders. Asbury named Eubank one of them, calling her a workhorse and adding how important it is that she leads since she's in the circle and everyone follows her. He described senior third baseman Brianna Quinn as a vocal leader, adding that her teammates respond. Asbury touted Waninger as a person who is fun to be with, and the younger players respond to her well.
Some other key players who have ascended to upperclassman status include juniors Mallory Garrison and Kyla Peter, with the latter tying with Caswell for the team lead with seven stolen bases last year.
Asbury had seen Garrison make improvements, during team workouts, adding that she's become more of a leader herself. He praised the defense she has played in the past, and is looking forward to her growth at the plate. Asbury has high expectations for Peter, too.
"Both those kids, they're almost like seniors," Asbury said. "They both played some as freshmen and then they played as sophomores, but really they have that experience that a lot of seniors have going into their senior years. We look at them as leaders for us just like if they were seniors, and we expect great things from them. Both of them have come up with exceptional, big-time plays, at important times, both offensively and defensively. So, their confidence should be there, and we expect great things from those two juniors."
The Pats were originally scheduled to open the season April 3 against Northeast Dubois. However, the Jeeps will not be able to play due to not being allowed back in school before April 6. The mandatory rule of 10 practices before a game means this won't be played on that date. Asbury suggested rescheduling the game with Northeast Dubois in a text to the Herald on Sunday night.
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