The news this offseason went from bad to worse for the Columbus North softball team.
Not only did the Bull Dogs lose seven starters to graduation, one of the two starters they did have coming back tore an ACL. Senior pitcher Madisyn Prince is hoping to be back by the second week of April.
“With us not having Madisyn back yet, our pitching is thin,” new North coach Ron McDonald said. “If we can get her back, we could be pretty competitive.”
McDonald, the former Brown County coach, takes over a team that went 9-16 under Robyn Coffer last season. He will have a young team with two seniors, no juniors, seven sophomores and six freshmen.
Besides Prince, the only other returning starter is sophomore Bailey Lofton. Lofton, who played first and third base, batted .274 with a home run and 11 RBIs.
“Bailey is capable of hitting the ball out of the park, and I’m hoping she’ll bat for a lot higher average than last year,” McDonald said.
Prince went 6-9 with a 2.63 ERA in the circle last season. Until she returns, sophomore Charisma Borroughs and freshman Lilly Hurt will do most of the pitching.
McDonald is excited about a pair of freshmen who could do big things this spring. Brooke Bruin is natural shortstop, but likely will start season in center field until Prince comes back. Sierra Norman is a natural third baseman who will start season at short before sliding over when Bruin moves to short.
“They’re two of the best fielding freshman and two of the best hitting freshmen I’ve ever had,” McDonald said.
Senior Kaitlin Panning will take over at second base, and sophomore Brooke Rice will start season at first base. Hurt can play left field, and Burroughs can play left or center when they aren’t pitching. Sophomore Teri Dale will begin the season in right.
Sophomore Jenna Fath steps in at catcher. Dale also could catch, and sophomore Isabel Story can play catcher, infield and outfield.
The other four freshmen — Brittany Reichenba, Haley Medve, Chloe Micheal and Breanna Guthrie — can provide speed on the basepaths.
“I don’t think North has had a lot of speed in the past, but these girls can run,” McDonald said. “Those freshmen will contribute as the year goes on.”
The Bull Dogs did finish second in last year’s Conference Indiana Tournament. Franklin Central remains a power in the conference, but the sectional likely will again be wide open.
“I think we could battle this year, but we have a lot to learn,” McDonald said. “We’re working a lot on fundamentals, but I think by the end of the year, we could be a pretty good team.”
The 2017 Columbus North softball schedule:
Saturday;South Dearborn (DH);11 a.m.
March 29;at Silver Creek; 6 p.m.
March 31;East Central;6 p.m.
April 6;at Shelbyville;5:30 p.m.
April 11;Seymour;5:30 p.m.
April 13;Franklin Central;6 p.m.
April 15;at Brown County Tournament;9 a.m.
April 17;at Columbus East;5 p.m.
April 18;Bloomington North;6 p.m.
April 20;at Southport;6 p.m.
April 22;at Center Grove;10 a.m.
April 22;vs. Greenwood at Center Grove;12:30 p.m.
April 27;at Perry Meridian;5:30 p.m.
May 1;at Edinburgh;5 p.m.
May 4;Indian Creek;5:30 p.m.
May 8;at Brownstown Central;5:30 p.m.
May 9;at Bloomington South;6 p.m.
May 10;at Greensburg;5:30 p.m.
May 13;Conference Indiana at Winslow Park;1 p.m.
May 16;Jennings County;5:30 p.m.
May 18;Hauser;5 p.m.