When Brian Bartlett stepped into the role as the Hundred Head Girls' Softball Coach four years ago, he knew he was going to have a tough time in fielding enough players to have a team from year to year. However, this season he has more players out than ever before, after just falling a little short in the sectional championships a year ago.
A new season presents new challenges. But Bartlett, who has 12 players returning to the fold, believes a strong core of upperclassmen presents the potential for another successful season.
"We have a lot of lofty goals of improving after our second place in the sectionals last year," said Bartlett. "The most common goal the girls all wanted was winning the sectional championship."
Bartlett and third-year assistant Roger Tustin started preparing for the 2012 season by trying to find ways to replace the production of three departed starters - Macy Woods, Lindsay Burley and Raven McDiffitt. Woods held down the hot corner; Burley patrolled centerfield; and McDiffitt was a rock at first base.
"The biggest problem is filling the void at the corners, with Raven at first and Macy at third. Hopefully someone will step up and be able to hold the bases down for us."
Two-year junior letterman Emily Ebert, and one-year senior lettermen Cheyenne Myers, look to be the front runners to start at first, while sophomores Nikki Cunningham and Andreya Nagy and freshman Allie Hayes will also get a look there.
At the hot corner, junior Katie Tennant and Nagy will look to replace Woods. Pitching isn't a big concern for Bartlett and Tustin, as they have back seasoned hurlers Ebert, Haley Hayes, and Mercedes Goff. Freshman Paige Shriver will get a chance to throw some strikes.
And, when Hayes isn't throwing strikes, she will be the batterymate behind the plate. Backing up Hayes behind the plate looks to be either Cunningham or freshman Erika Hunter.
Goff will start at short, with Shriver taking over when Goff either pitches or catches. At second base, it looks like it could be either Myers, Ebert, Ashley Yoho, or Michelle McClelland, with Allie Hayes and Dakota Kuhn in reserve.
In the outfield, McClelland, Tennant, Shriver, Shelly Cork, and Taylor Ashcraft are competing for starting spots, while Kuhn, Cunningham, Nagy, Hunter, Tameka Kernan, Crystal Bowman, Katrina Morgan, and August Morris are each looking to make an impact in the outfield as well.
With so many girls out, it could be very complicated for Bartlett to see who will start the season and who will come off the bench. However, the Lady Hornets have 19 girls out that will push each other for playing time. And, with their junior varsity experience, they should all get playing time.
"We've been stressing going for the extra base at every opportunity," added Bartlett on how well his team runs the bases. "Teams are going to have to play solid defense to get us out."
If the Lady Hornets can catch the ball behind the pitchers, and if the hurlers can avoid walks, the Lady Hornets could have an outstanding season, and reach their team goals.