Local prep softball players enter the circle for the first time today, and will be looking to make an impact right away around the county.
At Urbana, the Hillclimbers bring back a set of returners that includes Audrey Adams, Sarrah Baldwin, Katie Harris, Hannah Louck, Kacie Martin, Cady Perry, Makenna Radford and Jennifer Zaborowski.
But it’s the incoming youngsters who might make the biggest difference for the ’Climbers.
Mara Donohoe, Gracie Hower, Maleah Murphy and Emily Skelley could turn a team that went 1-19 into something closer to .500 this season.
“I’m super optimistic about the upcoming season. I know the last couple have been rough, but I’m looking forward to seeing what we can put out on the field,” UHS Coach Aaron Pittsenbarger said.
“I hope we shock some people. The goal is always to win our half of the CBC. And it’s not going to be easy, with the CBC as tough as it always is. It’s a great league for softball.”
Graham will go through that same test, now without six big-time 2018 seniors, including all-everything star Madison Bryant.
“There’s a lot of top-end pitchers and big hitters that have graduated (across the CBC),” GHS Coach Ralph Foster said.
Alyssa Theodor, Lexi Mullins, Morgan Pine, Lexi King, Sara Masters and Arleigh Rush will help form the core of the squad, with Lindsay Brayton, Lauren Woodruff and Olivia Bryant getting time.
“We’ll be a young team working on putting pieces together. But it’s not where we start, it’s where we finish,” Foster said. “The attitudes are great, too. There’s a lot of open spots for competition. I want them to come together as a team and become one. One heartbeat.”
West Liberty-Salem will be looking for a deep postseason run with a ton of returners loading the lineup.
Kayle Henderson, Olivia Milliron, Hallie Strapp, Maddie Estes, Julia Ames, Arrah Sandy, Kelsey Day, Camrin Rice and Hanna Riblet are all back. Sydnee Payer and Rachel Hostetler also won letters last season.
“All our seniors will be stepping into more prominent roles this year. Hallie Strapp has proven to be a great vocal leader in addition to the other seniors leading by example on and off the field,” WL-S Coach Kenleigh Farris said. “Our goals this year are to win the OHC, win districts and get over the hurdle in regionals. I’m excited to watch them thrive this season.”
The Tigers should be competitive in every game they play.
“The OHC North will be strong and competitive as usual, which we love. It’s always great competition and prepares us for postseason. This group of girls is extremely versatile and offensive-minded. They’ve done a great job developing as a team and get along really well, which makes all the difference,” Farris said. “We’re really excited for this season – it’s a very fun group. The girls have been working really hard to improve every aspect of their games. They’re a dedicated team and strive to get better every day.”
Triad has a group of returners that include Kristin Bailey, Shelby Sheets, Bri Eaton, Makenzie Cauley, Olivia Butz, Holly Alvoid, Kendell Hughes, Gracie Sheets and Joni Russell.
“We are returning experienced players that have been working hard. They’re willing to take on new roles and help guide some of our younger players. They show up everyday ready to work hard,” Triad Coach Shari Dixon said. “It takes everyone to make a team successful. We are trying to instill that in our girls. Everyone on our team has a purpose and a role and we’ve spent a lot of time establishing that these first few weeks.”
Mechanicsburg will bring back a large group of talent from last season’s deep tournament run.
Francys King, Kasey Schipfer, Hanna DeLong, Morgan Hizer, Taylor Hurst, Audrey Ayars, Macie Reed, Mallory Blakeman, Megan Alspaugh and Hayden Stanley are all back. Daytayviah Rodgers and Grace Forrest will be joining the team.
“I expect them to really carry out everything we’ve worked on in the offseason. If we just put into play what we’ve been practicing, then things will go our way,” M’burg Coach Abbey DeLong said. “Our goal is to win every inning. To make sure we’re at-bats, we’re not walking people, we’re making outs. Really just basic fundamental softball.”
The Indians will find out about themselves pretty quickly, with a relatively thick schedule.
“I always get nervous when we get outside that first time. Them seeing a different pitcher besides myself. But they handled themselves. They’re working hard. That’s all I can ask,” DeLong said.
Reach Justin Miller at 652-1331 (ext. 1776) or on Twitter @UDC_Miller.