LAPEL — The spring of 2020 could forever be referred to as a season of “what ifs” for the Lapel sports program.

What if the 2019 sectional champion softball team had a chance to defend its title? What if the boys golf team — which was largely intact — could repeat as Madison County champions? Could Luke Combs have improved on his podium finish at the state track finals? And could talented baseball and tennis teams have made a return to postseason prominence?

Those are questions that cannot be answered, but the Bulldogs have all the tools to bounce back in 2021.

A strong core of experienced players and a talented group of newcomers are primed for more softball success, and the golf team does return Corbyn Carroll, the 2019 individual county medalist. Bailey Baxter is back to fill the No. 1 singles slot for the tennis team, which is under new leadership, and the baseball team has several key offensive components to succeed.

The track and field team may be rebuilding, but that is just one of many reasons to watch what Lapel does this spring.

BASEBALL

Head Coach: Matt Campbell (5th season); 2019: 13-12, Madison County runners-up; Key Losses: Colton Shirley, Thunder Davis, Cannon Bledsoe; Key Returning Players: Brock Harper, Parker Allman, Noah Clark; Newcomers to Watch: Paden Hudson, Brennan Stow, Kyle Shelton, Isaac Bair, Owen Imel; Potential Breakout: Bair, Imel

Outlook: “The 2021 season for us will be an interesting one because, like many others, we are going to rely on guys with little experience,” Campbell said in an email. “As a team, this means many opportunities for guys to show us what they are capable of doing. You just have to be ready when your number is called. We have the talent and mindset to have a good group. I think we are all just ready to get a chance to play the game.”

BOYS GOLF

Head Coach: Ryan Jackson (1st season); 2019: 7-2, Madison County Champions; Key Losses: Jaxon Fetty, Ian Vipperman, Logan McAtee, Ross Hagen, Connor Benedict, Brandon Wood, Blaine Teeters; Key Returning Athletes: Corbin Renihan, Colin Vipperman, Corbyn Carroll; Newcomers to Watch: Tyler Lutz, Jacob Erwin, Dalton Clark, Clayton Baker, Noah Hudson, Grant Humerickhouse, Kaden Suchocki, Brendan Grubbs; Potential Breakout: Lutz, Erwin

Outlook: “We have a large group of guys that I’m looking forward to working with this season,” Jackson said. “There are a lot of young, talented guys to go along with an experienced group of upperclassmen. These guys have an opportunity to improve a lot throughout the season and will compete every chance they get.”

GIRLS TENNIS

Head Coach: Meg Fields (1st season); 2019: 13-8; Key Losses: Zoe Freer, Megan Sundheimer, Julia Beeler, Sydni Marshall; Key Returning Players: Bailey Baxter, Mariah Mason, Chloe Renihan, Morgan Erwin; Newcomers to Watch: Kerith Renihan, Emma Manning

Outlook: “I’m really looking forward to this season,” Fields said. “We have a great group of girls, and we’re happy for spring sports to be a part of life again. We have a good mix of experienced and fresh players, and we’re confident for a winning season.”

SOFTBALL

Head Coach: Scott Rich (11th season); 2019: 16-10, sectional champions; Key Losses: Kylie Rich, Addie Bailey, Chloe Bousman, Danielle Fox; Key Returning Players: Ashlynn Allman, Avery Bailey, Lily Daniels; Newcomers to Watch: Krystin Davis, Jordan Tracy; Potential Breakout: Hayley Granger, Chloe Tucker, Taylor Williams, Makayla Smethers

Outlook: “We have multiple girls with the potential of having big seasons,” Rich said. “(I’m) looking forward to seeing how it all comes together.”

TRACK AND FIELD

Head Coach: Daniel Combs (1st season); 2019: Luke Combs, 1,600 third-place at state finals; Key Losses: Luke Combs, Paige Rich, Jakob Addington, Brice Everitt, Jesse McCurdy, Zoe Freer, Lauren Smith, Noelle Loller; Key Newcomers to watch: Cameron Smith, Hannah Combs

Outlook: “We are young and currently few in number,” Coach Combs said. “I sense a good spirit among the athletes that have joined us so far. Every day, we talk about being better than the day before. There are no expectations except that we will work hard, support each other and strive to be the best version of ourselves that we can be.”

Contact Rob Hunt at rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.

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