By Rick Teverbaugh
The Herald Bulletin
ANDERSON, Ind. —
The high school softball season has had two weeks to get started, but for most coaches it has been an exercise in frustration.
The schools that had spring break a week ago missed several chances to get out and get some games in, and the previous week started with 10 inches of snow. Schools that had the break two weeks ago enjoyed some time on the diamond last week.
Three of those schools made excellent use of that time. Pendleton Heights played a couple of weekday games and then won its own Horseshoe Classic on Saturday, a tournament that routinely draws some of the state’s best teams. Madison-Grant also played in that tournament, getting in three games that day.
Alexandria is also off to a quick start, getting a handful of games in and finding success in them.
Now comes the Madison County tournament, slated to begin today. The weather forecast is dismal for the first three days so how the tourney unfolds is open to question.
The Tigers were 13-15 a year ago but lost only one player, Destynee Bischof, from that squad. The key returning lettermen from that team are Jamie Dircks, Natalie Beeman, Mariah Cook, Ashley Beeson, Carlee Wihebrink, Taylor Jennings and Hannah Murphy.
“We have the ability to go a long way this year,” said Tigers coach James King. “We are an experienced team. There is a lot of talent in our county, but I like our chances.”
The Indians and head coach Doug Holder will be missing Taylor Courtney, Kenzie Denny, Bobbi Fosnot and Brittney McCullough from last year’s 14-14 team. They return three pitchers: Sara Clapp, Haley Helton and Sydney Schmitt. Also back are Shelby Schmitt, Mariah Miller, Alex Poor, Donjanae Chamberlain, Kaylie Qualls, Avery Raper, Kaira Jackson and Serina Stinson.
Newcomer Aleena Shively may play a role.
“With an abundance of speed, playing experience and returning power potential, we are excited for the season to get started,” said Holder. “With the new nine-team format (for the county tourney), many teams with key players returning and the current spring weather, who really knows?”
Anderson Preparatory Academy
This is the Jets’ third season of softball but the first to play a varsity schedule and to play in the county tournament.
“We are still a young team with only two seniors,” said APA coach Traci Mills. “County tourney will be tough for us as it will be our first varsity game as well as our first game of the season, with only one outdoor practice.”
Malquisha Murphy-Hopkins will be the No. 1 pitcher after missing all last season with a broken hand. Bethany Sulc will move from the circle to shortstop. Both are seniors. Janae Davis, Kymber Poland and Maquanna Rush will be key players for the team.
The Broncos have a new coach in former Anderson High School coach Dick Hines.
“Daleville was 16-5 last year, and hopefully we can keep that going,” said Hines. “This is going to be a competitive team.”
Shelby Spence is a big loss from last year. She hit all of her team’s home runs.
Some key players on this year’s team include Brynn Gooding, Jordyn Marshel, Jaime Roberts and Jessi Waltermire. Injuries to Lauren Dybwad and Dani Johnson could make things difficult.
Elwood will be looking for new leaders to step up after the graduation of Carly Creasy, Maciah Faucett and Lyndsey Taylor. But the cupboard from last year’s 12-18 team is far from bare. Panthers coming back are Danielle Robertson, Hope Fred, Jessie Noone, Katelyn Leisure, Ashley Kleinbub, Kelsey Hughes, Jessica Taylor, Lacey Slayton, Addie Mulvaney, Tenasha Stephens, Meredith Helpling and Sierra Updegraff.
“We need to play to win every game and finish the game this year,” said coach Chris Noone. “We lost 10 games last year after the fifth inning because we didn’t finish. I expect us to compete to win the (county) tournament.”
The Eagles lost infielders Courtney Condon and Morgan Harvey and outfielders Shaley Jackson and Peyton Rodgers off a 16-6 squad for coach Jeremy Parker.
“We may struggle early with playing younger players and not getting in some games early,” said Parker. “I am confident they will give me everything they have. We get to play the first part of the county at home.”
Key returning players include Taylor Ryan, Shelby Hulse, Liz Armendariz, Natalie McGuire, Lexi Gray and Sydney Smith.
The Bulldogs graduated no seniors off last year’s team, but a couple of players chose not to return including pitcher Jessica Huffman.
“We will be depending on freshman Katelyn Willis and sophomore Kirsten Rich to do the pitching,” said Lapel coach Scott Rich. “We have a good combination of experience and young talent. It could be an exciting year for us.”
Key players returning include Stacy Bauer, Devon Bodenhorn, Daniele Burnell, Emily Cline, Rich, Rachael Sherwood, Alicia Sprague and Kennedy Teagarden.
“This should be our best team in nine years of high school softball,” said Lions coach Dan Russell. “We’ve had a 13-9 record each of the last two years and have basically seven starters returning.”
The players coming back include Lindsey Kardatzke, Myra Vance, Megan Johnston, Kelsey Willhoite, Emily Branson, Kelsey Flowers, Katie Maidlow and Morgan Vance. Baylee Oren is a new face that will provide help.
The Argylls are missing three regulars off last year’s 24-5 squad — Olivia Stroup, Lacey Little and Taylor McNutt.
“We have the possibility to be just as good as we were a year ago,” said coach Jay Dunlap. “We have good kids back, and we’ll see if we compete. In the county we have virtually any team can beat any other on a given day.”
Madison-Grant returns its top two pitchers, Rose Perry and Cierra Liddick.
Also returning are Darci Bangle, Katie Kohlmorgen, Kaycie Pyle, Taylor Martin, Ballie Havens, Emileigh Stanley and Kayla Stanley.
The Arabians of coach Rob Davis were 29-5 a year ago and will miss graduated seniors Sierra Lewis, Kinzie Davis and Alyssa Hathcoat.
“We better be ready to play each night,” said Davis of the county tourney. “The competition is as good as I’ve seen in a long time.”
PH has a returning one-two punch in the circle, a healthy Bailey Benefiel and Brooke Wendling. Also back are Sarah Dixon, Delilah Wright, Heather Wendling, Elizabeth Sigler, Alexandra Slick and Jordan Dean.
Play begins today at both Frankton and Pendleton Heights.
At Frankton, the host Eagles start against Alexandria at 5 p.m., followed by Elwood vs. Anderson Preparatory Academy.
At Pendleton Heights, the opening game is Madison-Grant against Anderson with Liberty Christian vs. Lapel to follow.
There will be two games at each site on Wednesday, again beginning at 5. Each site will host a semifinal game in the winner’s bracket on Thursday at 5.
Four games are slated at PH on Saturday beginning at 10 a.m. With the title game slated for 4 p.m.
No information was available about the Shenandoah softball team.