The Columbus East softball team made a slight progression last year, and the Olympians are looking to make a much bigger jump this season.
After winning only one game in 2011, East doubled that total last season, going 2-19. This spring, the Olympians are hoping to go over the .500 mark and finish in the top two in the Hoosier Hills Conference.
“I expect us to be a lot better than we were last year,” second-year East coach Sonny Stahl said. “We still have a pretty young team, but we’re going to be in it a lot more this year than last. We’ll be pretty good this year. I think this year, we’re going to surprise a lot of teams.”
The Olympians, who went 5-2 in a high school summer league last summer, return six starters and have three freshman who could fill the remaining spots.
Senior Hannah Lawson did most of the pitching last season, but could see more time at first base this year.
Sophomore Erin Tharp, who recorded 10 consecutive strikeouts in a win at Scottsburg, will see some time in the circle, along with freshman Haley Smalley.
Another freshman, Elyse Babb, will step in at catcher.
“She hits the ball as hard as anybody I’ve ever seen in softball,” Stahl said. “She has a great arm. She’s a great all-around player and a great student. It’s great knowing I’m going to have her for four years.”
Lawson and senior shortstop Paige Babb each batted .302 to share team-high hitting honors last season. Sophomore Kiersten Henderson returns at second, and freshman Kaitlyn Dye steps in at third.
Tharp returns in center field. Junior Kaitlyn Gubert moves from third to left field, and junior Taylor Hilderbrand moves from first to right field.
The team began conditioning three days a week in November and is primed to improve on the past two seasons.
“I have a very dedicated team,” Stahl said. “The program has really come around. I have good backing from the school, the athletic department and the parents. Everything has really turned around at Columbus East.”