Hauser has become a Class A softball powerhouse the past two years.
The Jets won a state title in 2015. Then, they put together together an undefeated regular season before coming up one run short of a return trip to state last year.
Hauser’s chances of another big season likely will hinge on the health of one of the key components from the past two seasons. Junior pitcher Tessa Sims has been diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) in her pitching shoulder.
“She’s not 100 percent, said her father and Hauser coach Craig Sims. “She’s 85 percent, but she can’t hurt anything by pitching. We’re just going to kind of pick and choose the games she throws. If it was something that was going to affect her long-term or collegiate career, she wouldn’t even play this year. It’s just going to be dealing with pain and gripping the ball and numbness of the fingers.”
Tessa Sims, who has committed to Indiana State, went 20-1 with an 0.53 ERA, with 181 strikeouts and only five walks last season. She also batted .402 with 20 RBIs and shared The Republic Player of the Year honors with her sister Leslie, who is now playing at Indiana State.
When Tessa Sims doesn’t pitch, she likely will play first base, and the pitching duties will fall to sophomore Hunter Crain.
“She’s been working hard, and she’s going to probably see a lot more innings than she anticipated,” Craig Sims said.
The Jets lost their entire infield to graduation, but do return senior catcher Hailey Lange. The Evangel University recruit batted .341 with three home runs and 25 RBIs.
Sophomore Taylor Henderson and junior Lauryn Starnes return in left and right field. With senior Ali Hoover, who tore an ACL early last season, back in center field, junior Sydney Schoen will move from center to second base.
Freshman Katie Taylor will replace Leslie Sims at shortstop and in the leadoff spot. Freshman Shelby Fugate steps in at third base.
Sophomore Mykenzie Ault, who ran track last year, can bunt and slap from the left side. Freshman Leah Joyce at catcher and sophomore Kirsten Keith in the outfield will provide depth.
“We’re going to surprise some teams,” Craig Sims said. “I think a lot of people think Hauser is done because of the people we graduated last year. We have some young kids, but they’re athletic, and they’ve worked hard. Our expectations are high. Our goals are high. I think we can be right there where we were last season.”
Kendall Wildey who coached Jennings County for 16 years in three stints between 1994 and 2014 and is superintendent at Columbus Christian, takes over the Crusaders softball program.
Columbus Christian went 1-7 last season.
“We just are trying to work on some fundamentals because they’re so far behind,” Wildey said. “We are literally just to the stage of just trying to throw with each other and rolling balls to each other. We haven’t even begun to take infield yet.”
Senior Savannah Spurgeon did some pitching last year, and senior Madi Ochs returns at catcher. The infield could consist of eighth-grader Madison Henderson at first, junior Taylor Ingram at second last year, senior Kyndra Rogers at short and junior Emily Warren at third.
The outfield spots are wide open at this point. Wildey is working with freshman Grace Isley on being a bunter/slapper. She could play in the outfield, along with freshman Emma Felbe.
“They are going to improve,” Wildey said. “They’re like sponges. They want to learn. They try to take everything that we’re doing in drills. As long as they stick with it, we’re going to get better.”
Bobby Willis, who has been assistant with the Panthers the past three years, takes over the coaching duties from Steve Vanosdol after a 16-10 season.
Sophomore Gabby Mahoney went 7-3 with a 2.22 ERA as Jennings’ No. 2 pitcher last season. Senior Amanda Bonesteel, who played mostly in the outfield, also will pitch this season.
Senior Tesla Kopitzke, who batted .449 with a homer and a team-high 24 RBIs, returns at first. Senior Sidney Gerkin, a Marian University recruit who batted .421 with a homer and 10 RBIs before breaking her leg in a collision late in the season, is back at short. Senior Mackenzie Byram (.319, 2 HR, 14 RBIs) returns at third.
Junior Alexus Brown and Bonesteel played left field last season, and senior Olivia Vanosdol and Brown played right field. They are battling for outfield spots, along with sophomores Madi Skinner and Kylee Matern.
Senior Sydney Brown steps in at second base. Senior Page Magner could play some first base and pitch. Kopitzke, junior Laynee Davidson or freshman Carissa Sabelhaus could do the catching.
“We’re moving along at the right pace,” Willis said. “We’re not perfect, but there’s a lot of things that we’re working on and will continue to work on throughout the season and improve on.”
The Lancers have high hopes after going 12-11 and winning a sectional title last year.
Seven starters return, including junior pitcher Maddi Clark, who broke her hand in a regional loss to Hauser. Clark, who went 7-5 with a 2.02 ERA, also can play first base or in the outfield.
Senior Bailey Woodall, who batted .423 with 23 RBIs, also pitches and plays center field. Sophomore Sidney Beier; who led Edinburgh with a .529 average, three homers and 26 RBIs; is back at catcher, and the middle infield is intact with junior Vanessa McManaway (.350) at second and senior Bri Howard (.359, 15 RBIs) at short.
Sophomore Emma Wade, who played some first and third last year, likely will start season at third and will be the backup catcher. Juniors Kenzie Hill and Mary Franklin split time in right field, and Clark or Hill could play center when Woodall is pitching.
Sophomores Grace Joiner and Paige Burton could play first base when they return from injuries. Juniors Breiana Burton and Macey Foster, sophomore Taylor Littiken and freshman Abby Schooler also could see action.
Edinburgh will try to unseat Hauser atop the Mid-Hoosier Conference and the regional.
“I think if we’re healthy, it will be a really competitive game,” Edinburgh coach Stephen Clark said. “I think both teams will match up extremely well against each other. Right now, we have two solid healthy pitchers, and our batting is continually improving. Every year, it seems like they’re grasping it a little more.”
The Eagles will be a young team with five freshmen projected to be in the starting lineup.
Four senior starters return from a team that went 7-13. Azhia Morgan is back in center field; Maddy Edds returns at first base; Faith Williams played left and right and Vicky Kelp played pitcher, infield and outfield.
Junior outfielders Emma Quackenbush and Katie Harsh and junior infielder Jasmine Imming were part-time starters.
Freshman Emma Summers will share pitching duties with Kelp, and freshman Aubrey Hollander takes over at catcher. Freshmen Taylor Poling and Adriana Kritzer will be at second and third.
Kelp will play shortstop when not pitching, and Summers can play short or third. Freshman Whitney Clark will play in the outfield.
Edds hit a home run in Brown County’s scrimmage against Brownstown Central last week.
“For having five freshmen in the starting lineup, mixed in with the four seniors, I thought it was a good success,” Brown County coach Kevin Greve said. “Emma and Vicky both pitched really well. Top to bottom, I really like our hitting lineup, too. There’s a ton of potential.”
The Cougars will look to improve on a 4-18 record with seven starters returning.
Senior Mackenzie Kopplin is back for her third year as the No. 1 pitcher. Sophomore Annie Gant, senior Brooke Helms and junior Chloe Smith are back at second, short and third.
Junior Katelyn Owens, sophomore Sam Goodfellow and junior Claire Wullenweber started in left, center and right. Goodfellow will move to catcher this year, and Owens could move to second base.
Senior Sierra Deppe, junior Brooke Owens or freshman Sierra Lange will be at first base. Lange also could play in the outfield, and sophomore Karah Biddinger could play outfield or second base.
Juniors Hunter Gatewood and Jennifer Peters provide pitching depth. Junior Kayla Carter could see action as the designated player.
“Hitting-wise, from what I’ve seen at practice, our swings are much better,” South Decatur coach Lisa Huff said. “I’m hoping we can score more runs and get that consistently at the plate. I feel pretty confident with our defense. Defensively, we improved a lot last year, and Mackenzie Kopplin, I feel like has gotten better and has more velocity and more control.”
The Cougars lost only one starter from a team that went 12-9 and lost to eventual Class A state champion Borden in the sectional finals.
Junior Morgan Gabbard returns as the main pitcher. Junior Hannah Deaton also will see pitching action after sitting out most last season after transferring from Seymour.
Junior Jodi Goecker is back at catcher, senior Amanda Wright returns at first and sophomore Savannah Harweger is back at shortstop. Deaton or sophomore returning starter Vidalis Montanez will be at second, and freshman Jaryn Holtsclaw takes over at third.
Gabbard plays left field when she isn’t pitching, while seniors Taylor Russell and Kirsten Hoene are back in center and right. Freshmen Sophia Stahl and Maddie Bell also could see action in the outfield.
“We have a great group of younger girls that are going to come in and help and contribute, and we have a second pitcher this year, which is something we didn’t have last year,” Trinity coach Chad Goecker said. “We’re deeper than we’ve ever been.”
The 2017 Hauser and Columbus Christian softball schedules:
Tuesday;Brownstown Central;5:30 p.m.
April 3;Shelbyville;5 p.m.
April 4;Rising Sun;5:30 p.m.
April 6;Edinburgh;5 p.m.
April 7;at Edinburgh;5 p.m.
April 13;at North Decatur;5 p.m.
April 14;North Decatur;5 p.m.
April 15;at Brown County Tournament;9 a.m.
April 17;at Triton Central;4:45 p.m.
April 21;at Waldron;5 p.m.
April 24;Rushville;5 p.m.
April 27;at Southwestern (Shelby) 5 p.m.
April 28;Southwestern (Shelby);5 p.m.
April 29;at East Central (DH);11 a.m.
May 2;Grensburg;5:30 p.m.
May 6;at Lawrenceburg (DH);11 a.m.
May 9;at Trinity Lutheran;5 p.m.
May 11;at South Decatur;5 p.m.
May 12;South Decatur;5 p.m.
May 15;Morristown;5 p.m.
May 16;at Morristown;5 p.m.
May 18;at Columbus North;4:30 p.m.
April 10;Horizon Christian;5 p.m.
April 15;at Southwestern (Shelby) (DH);10 a.m.
April 20;Indianapolis Tindley;5:30 p.m.
April 24;at Southwestern (Shelby);5 p.m.
April 25;Traders Point Christian;5:30 p.m.
May 1;at Providence Cristo Rey;5:30 p.m.
May 4;Traders Point Christian;5:30 p.m.
May 6;at Madison Shawe (DH);10 a.m.
May 8;at Crothersville;5 p.m.