HOPE — There were doubts about whether the Hauser softball team was still in the conversation as one of the best teams in Class A after losing All-State shortstop Leslie Sims, who currently is playing at Indiana State. Also gone are key infield starters Sidney Giles, Abby Kidwell and Kali Schumacher.

On Tuesday night, in their season opener against Brownstown Central, the Jets took the first step in erasing those doubts.

Hauser got a lot of its offensive output early on from names that a lot of people did not expect. The underclassmen, who are getting some of their first significant varsity playing time, helped the Jets build a strong lead early and cruise from there for a 9-1 victory.

Freshman Katie Taylor hit in the leadoff spot and collected two doubles in her first two at-bats. Sophomore Hunter Crain smacked a triple to drive in two runs in the first inning. Sophomore Mykenzie Ault, who is playing softball for the first time this year, also had an RBI in the first inning to build a 5-0 lead.

It was unfamiliar territory for junior starting pitcher Tessa Sims, who has had stability in her infield defense the past two years.

“All of the freshman and underclassmen worked really hard, and they are just positive all the time,” Sims said. “Even if they make mistakes, they are all willing to learn, which is really good going into the season.”

Sims had a flawless outing on the mound. She surrendered no hits or walks, while striking out six in five innings of work before Crain took over pitching duties.

Hauser coach and Tessa’s father, Craig Sims, said with a key game against sectional opponent Rising Sun next week, he wants to make sure Tessa has plenty of rest.

Tuesday night is also the first softball game in nearly a year for Hauser senior Ali Hoover, who had her season end prematurely due to an ACL injury last year. It was tough for her watching from the dugout during the second half of last season, but now she is glad to get back out there and help her team.

“It’s a really good feeling and I’ve been waiting for this moment for a very long time,” Hoover said. “It felt really good just to be back out and doing all that I can do.”

The season opener was a good step in the right direction, but the Jets now face their toughest part of the schedule when they play Class 4A Shelbyville on Monday and Rising Sun on Tuesday.

“It was good to get this game out of the way, and it showed us what we really needed to work on and improve on all together to prepare for the end of the season,” Hoover said.