The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Sports

March 25, 2014

HAC-I softball preview: Plenty of new faces inside the circle

SUNBURY — Milton coach Bill Keefer joked that he was glad this year he wasn’t the guy with a new pitcher. Last year it seemed he was one of few that had to replace a star in the circle after Kristi Weaver graduated.

But now Keefer’s the one with the seasoned ace in Taylor Batman, a senior who played solid all last year for Milton and used the offseason continuing to improve through both summer and fall teams.

“Taylor hasn’t been so much a leader until now. She just started working hard,” Keefer said. “She doesn’t say much, but she leads by example. Mackenna (Miller), her and Kiah Brink are kind of leaders by how they lead the team with examples. They’re a good senior class.”

Miller, a first-team all-state catcher, returns for Milton behind the plate while Brink is back at shortstop.

While Milton has Batman returning to pitch, others have to find a new arm to throw.

Mifflinburg graduated talented pitcher Alli Lloyd — who ended her career with 431 strikeouts — and coach Steve Ross plans on essentially using a three-girl rotation this season.

“Pitching’s going to be suspect for me. That’s why this year I’m going to be going with probably three pitchers,” Ross, now in his sixth season, said. “Whoever’s hot I’m going to go with. if that person doesn’t do anything, I’ll bring someone else in.”

Those three will consist of sophomore Hannah Boop, junior Chelsey Mitchell and senior Sara Stauffer. Stauffer went 4-2 last year pitching throughout the season.

Mifflinburg graduated three seniors, but have plenty back including Stauffer, senior third baseman Mackenzie Kyler, senior outfielder Mckenzie Noll, sophomore shortstop Kayla Kline and junior outfielder Margaret Wiand.

Like Mifflinburg, Danville faces the task of replacing a good pitcher in Tara Fritz. Unfortunately for the Lady Ironmen, it isn’t just Fritz that creates a hole to replace. Danville’s all-state outfielder Zina Knight — who led the Valley with 29 steals last year — is out for the year after undergoing knee surgery.

“We’re looking at six of starting nine needing filled. We’re going to be young,” coach Dwayne Heeter said. “Some young kids will have to step into positions and do the best they can and get better as the season goes. We should be competitive, but we still have areas we have to be sure of.”

Shamokin has the benefit of seven players who got significant time returning this season, including pitchers Helana Supsic and Carley Nash.

Another key returnee is senior third baseman Olivia Bonshock. Bonshock tore her ACL late in the girls basketball season, but new Shamokin coach Rich Kashner is pleased with the strides she’s made in trying to return to the softball field.

Also returning for the Lady Indians are senior outfielders Jenny Hornberger and Natalie Wolfe.

Shikellamy also returns a pitcher in junior Kelsey Zimmerman. And while the Lady Braves went just 3-17 last season, third-year coach Heidi Kerchoff believes Shikellamy has the ability to turn things around, despite graduating eight seniors.

“I think the potential’s there (for districts),” Kerchoff said. “If they don’t get nervous, scared and fall apart, I think the potential’s there to get going this year.”

Much like Shikellamy, Midd-West is hoping to turn its woes last year of going 2-18 into a winning season.

“I asked the girls, ‘What do you want from this season?’ I asked the seniors, ‘how do you want to go out your last year of softball?’ They all talk about winning. That’s our mantra this year: to win,” third-year coach Pete Voss said.

Selinsgrove was just a handful of wins away from getting into districts, but the Seals lost three key players in center fielder Ellen Spriggle, shortstop Rachel Goodling and catcher Brynn Musser.

“We feel we have several young players ready to step into these spots,” Selinsgrove coach Joel Rogers said.

One team that’s no stranger to the postseason is Jersey Shore, which is coming off a District 4 Class AAA championship season.

The Lady Bulldogs return pitcher Rebecca Caputo, second baseman Avery Lorson and senior outfielder Kirsten Harstead.

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