It takes some luck along the way to win a state championship.
The Hauser softball team was not lucky when starting center fielder Ali Hoover suffered a season-ending knee injury during an outfield collision against Jennings County on April 20.
However, the Jets have been very fortunate to have more depth than they had during their run to the Class A state crown a year ago — the kind of depth that has allowed them to piece together a solid outfield despite having had to use five different starters.
Last year, when Hauser had just 11 players on its roster, that might not have even been possible.
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This season, the Jets have been able to withstand the loss of their top outfielder, running their winning streak to 33 games heading into tonight’s regional showdown with rival Edinburgh.
“Hoover’s injury was obviously very costly, offensively and defensively, but kids have stepped up,” Hauser coach Craig Sims said.
The group had been bolstered in the preseason by the additions of sophomore Sydney Schoen, who had run track last spring, and freshmen Taylor Henderson and Hunter Crain.
Schoen joined holdovers Hoover and Lauryn Starnes in the lineup to start the season — but once Hoover went down in the ninth game of the season, the two ninth-graders were thrust into duty as well.
Henderson has gotten the bulk of the starts, but when she missed a little time due to a weekend travel basketball injury, Crain had to step in as well.
Schoen had perhaps the most difficult transition, at least defensively.
With Hoover sidelined, the first-year player was moved to center and tasked with quarterbacking the group.
So far, it’s worked out pretty well.
“I listen to Sydney,” Henderson said, “because she’s a really good outfielder and she knows how to control the outfield, and she tells me where to be and when to be there. So she helps me out a lot.”
“We’re just making sure we shift and communicating really well,” Schoen added, “and we’re all working together, because it’s kind of new for all of us.”
Starnes has also needed to switch positions, going from right field to left. There was an adjustment period, she said, but “Craig made me get used to it.”
The group has also held its own at the plate. Schoen is hitting .263 with 11 runs batted in and a .344 on-base percentage, and Starnes has scored 16 runs while getting on base at a .322 clip at the bottom of the order.
Henderson, meanwhile, is batting .323 in 16 games since entering the lineup. She went 3 for 3 in the Jets’ 10-0 sectional final rout of Class A No. 3 Rising Sun.
Sims would have obviously preferred to have a healthy Hoover this season — but in having a chance to groom his young outfield corps, he’s found a silver lining.
“It’s a great opportunity for them,” he said. “It’s horrible for Hoover, but it’s a great opportunity for them, being young and getting experience, and it’s only going to make us better next year.”
They’re pretty good this year, too.
Hauser (24-0) vs. Edinburgh (12-10)
When: 7 p.m.
Where: Edinburgh Community High School
What’s next: The winner advances to face North Central (Farmersburg) or Indianapolis Lutheran in the semifinals of the North Daviess Semistate on Saturday.
The last time: Hauser pulled out an 8-5 home win over the Lancers on May 5. The five runs are the most allowed by the Jets in a game this year. The two teams also met in a sectional final last season, with Hauser winning, 1-0.
Players to watch: Hauser — IF Leslie Sims (.659 BA, 53 R, 52 SB), P Tessa Sims (18-0, 0.49 ERA, 154 K, 5 BB; .425 BA, 35 R, 19 RBIs), IF Sidney Giles (.403, 28 RBIs), C Hailey Lange (.361, 3 HR, 22 RBIs); Edinburgh — C Sidney Beier (.515 BA, 15 2B, 3 HR, 25 RBIs), P Madisyn Clark (7-5, 2.08 ERA, 95 K, 10 BB), OF/P Bailey Woodall (.427, 24 R, 23 RBIs), IF Bri Howard (.355, 16 R, 15 RBIs).