THE Hauser softball team received a big break in the offseason when the IHSAA moved the Jets from Class A Sectional 60 to Sectional 59.
That means that instead of being in the same sectional as perennial power Rising Sun, Hauser will now host a sectional that includes Edinburgh, Greenwood Christian, Morristown, Southwestern (Shelby) and Waldron. Last year, the Jets went 14-11, tied for the Mid-Hoosier Conference title and fell to Rising Sun in the sectional.
“Our goal is to win conference again and win sectional, and I think that’s a very attainable goal,” Hauser coach Craig Sims said.
“Us and Edinburgh should be the best teams in it.”
The Jets lost only one senior from last season in pitcher Bree Lange but had two pitchers move into the school district. Sophomore Kali Shoemaker was a junior varsity pitcher at Jennings County, and sophomore Sidney Giles went 7-2 with a 2.43 ERA at Edinburgh, while batting .387 and leading the Lancers with 19 RBIs.
Junior Ellie Trotter returns at catcher, but freshman Hailey Lange could end up playing there. Whichever one doesn’t catch will likely play third base.
“We have two good pitchers,” Sims said. “We have two good catchers. We have a lot of speed and athleticism. We’re going to have kids fighting for positions.”
Shortstop won’t be one of them. Sophomore Leslie Sims returns after batting .630 with a state-record 72 stolen bases and 45 runs scored as a freshman.
Also back are senior first baseman Erynn Shaw (.309), sophomore second baseman Abby Kidwell (.219) and sophomore outfielder Mallory Jordan. Jordan, freshman Ali Hoover and Giles will fill the left and right field spots.
Junior Sarah Anderson is back after missing last season with an injury and will play center field. Sophomore Paige Miller, who started at third last year, recently
had ACL surgery and will likely miss the entire season.
“We’re going to have a pretty good team this year,” Craig Sims said. “We’re really young and really experienced. The following year and the year after that, anything is possible.”
The Panthers will look to take one more step after reaching the state’s final four in Class 4A last season. They went 26-8 and won Hoosier Hills Conference, sectional and regional titles.
“That’s the goal,” Jennings coach Kendall Wildey said. “We’ve talked a lot about it. Obviously, losing the (Klosterman) twins that started for us for four years was a lot, but we have a lot of experience back.”
That starts in the circle, where two-time Republic Softball Athlete of the Year Lisa McIntosh returns. McIntosh went 21-6 with a 1.19 ERA and batted .452 with 28 RBIs.
Sophomore Bug Donnell went 5-2 with a 3.28 ERA and batted .302 with 15 RBIs. Sophomore Heather Feiles will be the No. 3 pitcher.
“Fast-pitch is so much dictated by pitching,” Wildey said. “I would say that is our No. 1 strength; and when (Dani) Kirchner gets on, we have a good chance of scoring. We’re solid defensively, and we can score some runs; but pitching is the main thing.”
Kirchner, who played both short and center last season, led the Panthers with a .514 average, 26 stolen bases and 35 runs and added 25 RBIs. Junior first baseman Baylee Krueger batted .367 with a team-high 30 RBIs.
Also returning are junior second baseman Maddy Hovious (.317, 14 RBIs), sophomore left fielder Kyndyl Olds (.398, 14 RBIs), junior right fielder Hannah Castor (.314, 18 RBIs) and senior catcher Brittany Bonesteel (.214). Donnell or McIntosh will be in center when not pitching.
Sophomore Kaylin Klosterman (.269) will take over at third. Freshman Mackenzie Byram also could play some third, and freshman Sidney Gerkin could see action at second. Senior Bobbie Jo Jacobs provides depth in the outfield.
“You have to be lucky, too, but I think we’re good enough if we stay healthy and keep our heads on straight to go all the way,” Wildey said. “But there are teams good enough to pick us off the first game of the sectional, too. We might be good enough, but we’re not good enough that we can take anybody lightly.”
The Eagles have run into some tough luck the past two years, falling to South Vermillion in the sectional. Last year, Brown County went 19-10 and won a share of the Western Indiana Conference title but lost in the sectional final.
“We should have won the sectional last year,” Brown County coach Ron McDonald said. “We’ve had two flukes the last two years and ended up losing to teams we had beat during the year.”
The Eagles lost their two ace pitchers but return two others with varsity experience in senior Sarah Southerland (1-0, 4.34 ERA), who has committed to Franklin College, and junior Bri Harper (1-0, 1.75).
“We’ve been so dominant pitching the last two years here; but I think what we’ve become this year, we’re still pretty good pitching, but we’re more balanced,” McDonald said. “We’re really going to be a good hitting team, and we have more speed this year. I have a couple incoming freshmen that can flat fly.”
Harper, who batted .426 with 23 RBIs, plays second when she isn’t pitching, while Southerland (.353, team-high 25 RBIs) plays left or short. Also returning are junior Cheyenne Ellis (.378, 14 RBIs) at third or short, junior Dakota Anderson (.329, 22 RBIs) in the outfield, junior Lacy Ross (.216, 16 RBIs) at first and sophomore Rachael Smith (.296) in center.
Senior Ashley Walsh will step in at catcher. Junior Caili Marcoux could play third or first, junior Carlie Williams could play right or first, freshmen Vickie Kelp could pitch or play second and Azhia Morgan could play in the outfield or infield.
Autumn Humbaugh, who played two years at Lincoln Trail (Ill.) and was assistant at Franklin College in 2010, takes over a Lancer program that went 11-8 but was hit hard by graduation and the transfer of Giles.
Sophomore first baseman Kayli Littiken (.298, 19 RBIs), senior second baseman Marissa Whitis (.333, 10 RBIs), junior shortstop Courtney Woodall (.367) and junior outfielders Mariah Brown and Marah Piercefield are the returning starters. Freshman Bailey Woodall will take over as the team’s No. 1 pitcher.
Joining them in the lineup will be sophomore Kayla Beier at third, junior Lilli Owens or sophomore Megan Rooks at catcher. Juniors Kristen Monson and Kelsy Burton and freshmen Mayce Anderson and Bri Howard are battling for the other outfield spot.
“We have a lot of competitiveness in us,” Humbaugh said. “I know that we are primarily young, but our upperclassmen have stepped up and taken that leadership role. I think with hard work and determination and willingness to learn from our mistakes, we can have a successful year.”
The Cougars went only 5-17 last year but played well at the end of the season, making the sectional final and falling to Class A No. 1 Rising Sun 2-0.
Eight starters return from that team, led by senior pitcher Elizabeth Hedger, who went 5-17 and batted .325, and junior catcher Brittany Koors (.385, 15 RBIs). Also back are senior Taylor Noble at first, sophomore Morgan Eden and junior Olivia Rigby at second, senior Julia Miller (.350) at third, senior Ashley Johannigman in left and junior Sydney Callahan in right.
Senior Courtney Billingsley, who played center, will either play there or at short, and freshman Brooke Helms will play the other one. Helms is also working on possibly being able to help with pitching duties.
“The way we ended the season last year, I thought we were getting better,” South Decatur coach Lisa Huff said. “With everybody back besides one, I think we should have a decent year, as long as we can hit the ball. Last year, we had a hard time putting the ball in play and scoring a lot of runs.”
The Cougars are still seeking their first sectional softball title after coming close last season, when they finished 11-8.
“Their enthusiasm and their effort so far this year, they’re focused,” Trinity coach Tom Barker said. “One of the goals is to win a sectional title. Our girls feel they’re a contender this year. They’re a lot of fun to coach, and they’re looking forward to that.”
Junior pitcher Kaitlyn Wright (10-8, 3.01 ERA) returns. She’ll have help this year from junior transfer Natalie Plofkin, who was Jennings County’s No. 3 pitcher last season.
Returning to the lineup are junior Liz Hill (.276, 10 RBIs) at catcher, sophomore Haylee Barker (.339) at second, sophomore Taylor Reynolds (.348, 13 RBIs) at third, senior Brianna Sons (.317, 21 RBIs) at short, junior Sydney Stuckwisch (.364) in left and senior Mandan Langley (.283) in right. Stuckwisch and freshman Amanda Wright could play first, and freshmen Taylor Russell, Amanda Wright and Kirstin Hoene are battling in the outfield.
The Owls will look to improve on last year’s 15-14 record.
Junior Emily Bobb (.448), who could play short or third, and senior second baseman Devon Joray (three home runs) are the top returners. Senior pitcher Gemma Chailles, who could also play in the outfield, has signed to play at Lincoln Trail.
Junior Shelby Stephens played catcher and first base last season. Sophomore Baylee Robinson started some games at catcher and in the outfield.
“We have a good group of freshmen coming in,” Seymour coach Brian Personett said. “From what I’ve seen so far, they’re pushing some of the upperclassmen that have been there. There’s going to be competition to find a spot on the field.”