Softball preview: Cats reload in march for 3 straight

By WYATT L. STAYNER
wstayner@dcherald.com

Scouting this season’s area softball teams:

Herald File Photos
Jasper’s Grace Werner, left, and Heritage Hills’ Miranda Miller, right, both lend experience to their squads, as Werner returns to the infield for a Wildcat team that won 25 games last season, while Miller is a veteran for a Patriot squad that collected 15 victories a year ago.

Jasper Wildcats

Last Season

Finished 25-4-1 overall en route to Big Eight Conference and sectional titles before losing to Boonville in the regional. 

Opening Game

Today at Linton; home opener Wednesday against Floyd Central.

Returning Players

Maria Gobert, Sr. (right field)

Olivia Knies, Sr. (pitcher)

Lindsay Mehringer, Sr. (catcher)

Molly Mehringer, Sr. (first base)

Alexa Stenftenagel, Sr. (shortstop)

Hailey Hurst, Jr. (utility)

Jessica Mehringer, Jr. (center field)

Grace Werner, Jr. (second base)

Rachel Gress, Soph. (third base)

Keregyn Masterson, Soph. (pitcher)

Taylor Mitchell, Soph. (utility)   

Key Newcomers

Lexie Jerger, Fr. (left field)

Claire Knies, Fr. (utility)

Notable: After consecutive sectional championships, Jasper isn’t shying away from the spotlight. It doesn’t matter that the Wildcats graduated their starting third baseman, shortstop, first baseman, center fielder, plus a designated player and a pitcher from last season’s squad. Jasper’s depth has taken even a couple more hits with a handful of players coping with injuries and ilnesses. 

“Our ability for the next man up” has impressed, coach Matt Pryor said. “We’ve had a lot of early injuries carrying over from other sports or battling the flu as well. We’ve been having to put some young people in positions they’ve never played before or didn’t think they would be playing in those spots. Everybody has been accepting their roles on where we need them and having a team-first attitude of not being stuck in one position. We’re going to need that. We don’t have great numbers here, so we’re going to be able to plug in everywhere we need to.”

The roster is still stuffed with five senior veterans plus some talented juniors who Pryor said could’ve started last season had it not been for the bevy of senior talent blocking their path. Stability comes from a veteran battery as Olivia Knies has already accumulated 50 career pitching wins, while Lindsay Mehringer returns behind the plate and was last year’s leading home-run hitter with five bombs. Knies led the Cats last season with a 19-3 pitching mark and a 1.80 ERA while also posting a .416 batting average as Jasper reached the No. 1 ranking in Class 3A for part of the season.

The emphasis so far for the Cats, like every year, has been working on cutting down on errors. Pryor also said the he wants to instill an attacking offensive mindset in some of the newcomers.

Quotable: “We have this label of sectional champs two years running and we don’t want to give that up,” Pryor said. “We want to have high-intensity practices to simulate that that’s what we expect in practice so that will roll over into the games. It’s not a distraction. It’s more of an expectation that that’s how we need to practice in the games if we want to obtain those same goals. But also, we want to go further (in the postseason). We felt like we had opportunities to go further, but we came up short. We want to learn to capitalize on those opportunities and not let them creep by us.”

Southridge’s veteran group starts with infielders Boo Polley (10) and Macie Marley as the Raiders are gunning for their first winning season in six years.

Southridge Raiders

Last Season

Finished 8-13 overall and 1-7 in PAC; lost to Jasper in sectional semifinals.

Opening Game

April 3 at Crawford County; home opener April 6 versus Forest Park.

Returning Players

Catie Fleming, Sr. (infield)

Kendyl McKeough, Sr. (catcher)

Misty Merter, Sr. (infield)

Boo Polley, Jr. (infield/pitcher)

Lauren Springer, Jr. (outfield)

Morgan Stapleton, Jr. (infield)

Bre Wilkey, Jr. (pitcher/infield)

Amanda Brewer, Soph. (infield)

Macie Marley, Soph. (outfield)

Peyton Nalley, Soph. (outfield/pitcher)

Key Newcomers

Megan Buechler, Soph. (outfield)

Rachel Trent, Soph. (catcher)

Notable: Southridge coach Doug Collins thinks this could be his best season yet.

Three years after taking over the Raider program, Collins is shooting for a new goal. The mission is for the Raiders to finish above .500 and notch their first winning season since 2011. Collins thinks it’s an attainable goal if the Raiders can close games better than they did last season, when he said they lost about five games in the last two innings.

After breaking in newcomers in his first two seasons, Collins expects about seven of the nine starting positions to be filled by returnees. Some of those veterans are underclassmen, but Collins said he has confidence in the varsity experience they’ve accrued.

Last year’s No. 1 pitcher Kassidy Mundy graduated, and she’ll be replaced in that top spot by Wilkey, who was the backup hurler a year ago while also ranking second on the squad with a .379 batting average. McKeough (.463, three home runs) and Polley (.317, 12 stolen bases) also provide some pop at the top of the order for a team that Collins expects will be strong in hitting and defense.

Quotable: “We have some times we play five days a week. We don’t have any where we play less than three. Once we start our season — probably like most teams — we’ll have eight practices before the sectional, so it’s all crammed in there. Even though it’s hard to get better by playing just games, we’re going to have to,” Collins said. “We’re going to have to learn from our mistakes in games. We’re going to have to build on our strengths. I really look for a good year.”

Taryn Prechtel and Taylor Bayer are among two junior veterans on a Forest Park team that’s ushering in several freshmen who could crack varsity.

Forest Park Rangers

Last Season

Finished 8-18 overall and 1-7 in the PAC; lost to Tell City in first round of sectional.

Opening Game

Tuesday at Evansville North; home opener Thursday against Evansville Mater Dei.

Returning Players

Lauren Roos, Sr. (second base, outfield)

Taylor Bayer, Jr. (pitcher, infield)

Lanette Blume, Jr. (pitcher, outfield)

Hana Franchville, Jr. (catcher)

Sara Helming, Jr. (first base)

Sam Jarboe, Jr. (outfield)

Taryn Prechtel, Jr. (third base)

Jordyn Wiseman, Soph. (utility)

Key Newcomers

Kylie Giesler, Fr. (infielder)

Kennedy Sermersheim, Fr. (catcher/infield)

Mayson VanMeter, Fr. (pitcher)

Ally Werner, Fr. (pitcher)

Macie Zink, Fr. (catcher/infield)

Notable: It’s getting awful hard for coach Kelly Schroering tell those seniors and freshmen apart.

No, the seniors aren’t getting smaller, and the freshmen aren’t getting bigger. Schroering’s point is how mature her group of freshmen have been this season. Because of numbers, Forest Park will have a JV team this season after going without last year. However, a few of this year’s freshmen have a real shot at cracking the varsity rotation.

“I like their work ethic so far,” Schroering said. “I feel, from freshmen through seniors — I only have one senior this year — but just I see their togetherness. It’s hard for me to distinguish between freshman and senior, because so far I see them working as a whole unit instead of that division you get sometimes between upperclassmen and underclassmen.”

Effort is the thing that stands out the most to Schroering, she said. Having a group of younger girls and older girls has also driven up the competition for playing time, which Schroering said is going to make everyone better. 

Quotable: “I wish I could tell you what we’re going to be good at. I don’t really know,” Schroering said. “I think one of our strengths is we have a lot of girls who can play and compete for a varsity spot. The competitiveness is of the girls is amped up from year’s past. Just competing from who’s going to earn what spot and keep that spot. Our best attribute right now is our competitiveness.

“The ultimate goal is to win a sectional,” Schroering added. “The ultimate goal is to win our conference, but both of those are really tough for us if you look at who is in our sectional and our conference, I would contend that we have one of the toughest conferences for softball in our state in the PAC. My goal is every day that we’re putting forth the best effort that Forest Park softball can do and then the rest will come, the wins and everything else will come. So are we putting forth our best effort every day? And so far in practice, I’ve seen that.”

Taylin Friedman is part of a three-girl senior class at Northeast Dubois, which returns nearly everyone from a 10-win team in 2016.

Northeast Dubois Jeeps

Last Season

Went 10-9 overall and 4-2 in the Blue Chip Conference; lost to Tecumseh in sectional championship. 

Opening Game

March 30 at home against North Daviess.

Returning Players

Taylin Friedman, Sr. (designated player/outfield)

Carly Terwiske, Sr. (shortstop/pitcher)

Harlee Zehr, Sr. (catcher)

Kyndal Green, Jr. (outfield)

Clare Mangin, Jr. (pitcher/third base)

Brooklyn Dodd, Soph. (infielder)

Elizabeth Kunz, Soph. (pitcher)

Camryn Stemle, Soph. (pitcher)

Mackenzie Zehr, Soph. (designated player)

Notable: In his second season as coach, Dion Terwiske sure is seeing a lot of familiar faces on the field.

Terwiske said that while the Jeeps are pretty young this year, they have plenty of returning experience. Last year, Northeast Dubois finished with a winning record for the first time since 2011, and with just one senior departing from that squad and three seniors to lead the way this spring, Terwiske said that’s made practices pretty smooth so far.

Terwiske sees balance and versatility throughout his lineup, and the Jeep coach thinks he’s got three capable pitchers as well as girls able of carrying their weight on offense and defense. If there’s one key area for improvement, it would be manufacturing runs, since Terwiske said Northeast Dubois doesn’t have a shut-down pitcher. That’s meant focusing on strike-zone recognition. The Jeeps are using real pitch counts in batting practice to mimic a game.

“Instead of just sitting in there and swinging repetitively, we try to get them to work through a count to get a little smarter in the at-bat to knowing what you want when you get to the plate and what you don’t want and what to lay off of,” Tewiske said.

Quotable: “Everybody’s general goal should just to be win every game you play. You may not, but you need to have that approach every day that whenever we start a game, we plan on winning that game every day,” Terwiske said. “We need to have that idea that we can win every game we play.”

 

Heritage Hills Patriots

Last Season

Finished 15-10 and 6-2 in the PAC; fell to Boonville in sectional championship. 

Opening Game

Wednesday at home against Evansville Mater Dei.

Returning Players

Kayley Bauer, Sr. (shortsop)

Miranda Miller, Sr. (infield/outfield)

Claire Brinkman, Jr. (outfield)

Corrie Burroughs, Jr. (pitcher)

Maddie Fuller, Jr. (outfield)

Meagan Kralj, Jr. (pitcher/first base)

Lauren Caswell, Soph. (infield)

Xiana Scott, Soph. (outfield)

Key Newcomers

Sidney Alcorn, Jr. (infield)

Sina Schmid, Jr. (outfield)

Sierra Schipp, Soph. (catcher/outfield)

Ali Wade, Soph. (catcher/infield)

Whitney Ward, Soph. (outfield)

Mariah Zoglman, Soph. (infield)

Emma Eubank, Fr. (pitcher/infield)            

Miranda Keller, Fr. (pitcher/outfield)         

Brianna Quinn, Fr. (infield)

Sydney Richards, Fr. (outfield)

Miley Thomas, Fr. (infield)

Hayley Waninger, Fr. (catcher/infield)

Summer Weedman, Fr. (pitcher/infield)

Notable: It’s all good vibes from coach Joe Asbury and his team this season.

If Heritage Hills is to crank out another customary winning season, Asbury said success will have to be built on intangibles. That’s meant plenty of positive reinforcement from coaches and players this season, as Asbury wants to improve the Patriots’ confidence through positive interactions between players. That’s started with enjoying practice, even during near-freezing days. 

“We’re just working on having a real positive attitude with each other and we’re really focusing on being good teammates and being very positive with one another, coaching staff included,” Asbury said. “We’re working hard at showing good leadership regardless of our class and we’re trying to encourage kids to communicate with one another and get out of their comfort zone in terms of communication, and we want our younger kids communicating with the older kids and vice versa, and the older girls leading by example with their communication.”

Caswell (.400 average, four home runs), Fuller (.333, 19 RBIs), Miller (.296) and fourth-year starting shortstop Bauer (12 RBIs) are four players Asbury said he’s looking to lead, and in particular, Miller is “a kid everybody loves and wants to follow,” Asbury said. The foundation of the Pats is strong, Asbury said, with several girls who can pitch and catch and operate in different positions.

Quotable: “I think all kids — our kids at times don’t play with the confidence they need. I just want our kids to be as confident as possible when they’re playing, and obviously the more they play, the more confident you are and there’s a lot that goes into being confident,” Asbury said. “Having positive teammates is certainly a factor, and we want to establish that because that’s something we can control.”




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