HOPE — For Hauser softball junior Hailey Lange, the toughest test of the season might have come after practice Tuesday afternoon.
Posing for The Republic’s chief photographer, Mike Wolanin, Lange was being asked to put on her most serious “game face.”
The Jets’ starting catcher was only able to hold a serious expression for a few seconds at a time. Wearing anything other than a smile is highly unnatural for Lange.
“If someone said, ‘Don’t smile or you’ll die,’ I’d probably still smile,” Lange said.
She should have plenty to smile about this spring.
Hauser won the Class A state championship last year — and with most of the key pieces back in place and a promising group of young players coming on board, the confidence level is extremely high.
“People say, ‘1A talent level, 4A talent level,'” head coach Craig Sims stated. “I truly believe we could beat the 4A state champion from last year right now. That’s how I feel about it. I think the difference between 1A and 4A is participation numbers. That’s the biggest difference, in my eyes. You’ve either got a good team or you don’t.”
The Jets expect to have a very good team again. Leslie Sims, The Republic’s Player of the Year last season and already the state’s all-time leader in stolen bases, is back for her senior season. She’ll bat leadoff and play shortstop.
Her sister, sophomore Tessa Sims, will handle the bulk of the pitching. As a freshman, Tessa was 21-3 with a 0.78 earned-run average, and she allowed just four runs over six postseason games.
Tessa has already committed to play collegiate softball at Indiana State — where she’ll be able to reunite with Leslie, who’s headed there next year.
Craig Sims is comfortable with his pitching depth — seniors Sidney Giles and Kali Schumacher as well as freshman Hunter Crain are all capable of picking up some innings — and says that defense will be what dictates how well Hauser does this season.
“We work hard on defense,” he said. “You’ve got to make 21 outs every game regardless of who you play or the conditions. It’s seven innings for three outs every inning — usually, the team that makes the least amount of mistakes is usually the team that wins.”
The Jets figure to be in good shape there. Lange will serve as an anchor behind the plate, and the starting infield — Schumacher at first base, Abby Kidwell at second, Leslie Sims at short and Giles at third — is all seniors.
Additionally, Craig Sims believes he may have the fastest group of outfielders he’s ever coached in sophomore Sydney Schoen, junior Ali Hoover and sophomore Lauren Starnes.
The bench has been bolstered by an influx of strong underclassmen, and the current roster of 14 players is the biggest that the Jets have had during Craig Sims’ tenure.
None of that, of course, guarantees that Hauser is going to repeat its state championship run. It takes a lot more than talent to win a title, and nobody within the program is taking anything for granted.
“We all come out with a 0-0 record,” Tessa Sims said.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that the Jets aren’t setting their sights on the grand prize again.
“We have high expectations, clearly. Everyone would,” Lange said. “We know that there’s absolutely no reason why we can’t do it.”
No matter how it ends for Hauser, you can bet that Lange and her teammates will be smiling the whole way.
March 29;at Brownstown Central;5:30 p.m.
April 5;at South Decatur;4:30 p.m.
April 7;at Eastern Hancock;5:30 p.m.
April 9;at North Decatur (2);10 a.m.
April 11;Morristown;4:30 p.m.
April 14;Waldron;5 p.m.
April 16;at Brown County (2);9 a.m.
April 18;Triton Central;4:45 p.m.
April 21;Jennings County;5 p.m.
April 22;at Rising Sun;5:30 p.m.
April 25;at Rushville;5 p.m.
April 28;at Jac-Cen-Del;5 p.m.
April 30;East Central (2);11 a.m.
May 3;at Greensburg;5:30 p.m.
May 5;Edinburgh;5 p.m.
May 7;Lawrenceburg (2);11 a.m.
May 10;Trinity Lutheran;5 p.m.
May 12;at Southwestern (Shelby);5 p.m.
May 13;Knightstown;7 p.m.
May 16;at Indian Creek; 5 p.m.
May 17;Milan;4:30 p.m.
May 19;at Columbus North;4:30 p.m.
Projected batting order
Leslie Sims, senior SS
Tessa Sims, sophomore P
Hailey Lange, junior C
Sidney Giles, senior 3B
Sydney Schoen, sophomore LF
Abby Kidwell, senior 2B
Kali Schumacher, senior 1B
Lauren Starnes, sophomore RF
Ali Hoover, junior CF
Off the bench: Taylor Henderson, freshman OF/DP; Hunter Crain, freshman 3B/C; Lauren Starnes, sophomore OF; Kristin Keith, freshman DP; Kaitlyn Danford, freshman DP; Nicole Beeker, freshman DP