The spring sports season gets underway tonight when Jennings County hosts Shelbyville in softball battle.
Optimism abounds at Columbus East and Columbus North, meanwhile, entering this softball season. While neither had a stellar 2018 season, both return all of their pitching and most of their hitting, and both have some promising newcomers.
Hauser will look to replace three-time The Republic Softball Player of the Year Tessa Sims, along with her father, coach Craig Sims, in hopes of defending its Class A sectional and regional titles.
Here is a look at those and other area teams:
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After posting their first winning season in a decade by going 14-11 in 2017, the Olympians slipped to 8-11 last season, when several games were canceled because of rain.
East lost four seniors, including two starters, from that team.
"It’s still early," East coach Rusty Brummett said. "We’re not doing as well as we hope to be at the end of the season, but we’re right where you’d think we’d be at the beginning of the season."
Senior Brooke Valles, who has signed with Lake Land (Illinois), and junior Jordan Johnston have done most of the pitching the past two years. Junior Jenna Robbins also saw action in the circle last season.
Junior Becca Carter returns at catcher. Sophomore Kaitlin Brummett is back at shortstop, but could provide relief behind the plate at times.
Valles or Robbins will be at first and Johnston at second when they aren’t pitching. Junior transfer Katie Taylor, who has started for Hauser the past two years, steps in at third.
Junior Madyson Foster returns in center. Freshman Julia Sitterding will be in left and could play short when Brummett is catching. Seniors Katlyn Murphy and Maddie Kissinger are among a group battling for the right field job.
"When you start thinking about the kids that are going to be playing defensively, all of them have a ton of experience playing travel ball," Rusty Brummett said. "We are afforded now an opportunity to let some of our freshman and sophomores play at the junior varsity level and develop, which helps your program."
The Olympians hope to contend for a sectional title.
"We do have high expectations this year," Rusty Brummett said. "Really, the sectional could be wide open. We definitely think we have a chance to be pretty good this year if we play to our potential."
Like East, the Bull Dogs have some lofty expectations this season after going 5-16 a year ago.
"Our goal is to win the conference (Indiana) and win the sectional if we can," North coach Ron McDonald said. "We think we’re right in the mix. We think it’s up for grabs this year. The last two years have been pretty tough, but we’re where we think we should be with the program."
Not only do the Bull Dogs return practically everyone from last season, they have five freshman with extensive travel softball experience coming in.
Sophomore Meghan Waggoner did most of the pitching last season. This year, she will share those duties with freshman Peri Foust and Rachel Cowan.
"Peri is going to be very good," McDonald said. "All of them are. Meghan has worked her tail off and is in a lot better shape than last year."
A pair of big hitters return in senior catcher Bailey Lofton, a four-year starter, and junior Sierra Norman, who could play second, third or short. Cowan, Waggoner or freshman Lucy Norman will be at first.
Freshman Emily Heafner will be at second or short, and her sister, freshman Alexia Heafner, will play third and will be the backup catcher.
Junior Brooke Bruin moves from short to left, and sophomore Haylee Acton returns in center. Lucy Norman, freshman Lillian Mackey or sophomore Aden Voss will be in right.
A pair of seniors — Jenna Fath and Brooke Rice — have seen action the past couple of years and will provide depth.
"We ought to be pretty fun to watch this year," McDonald said. "We have speed, we have pitching, we have defense. Expectations are pretty high on the freshman coming in. This year’s class is a really good class, and next year’s is good coming in. The next few years, we ought to be pretty good. We just have to play to our potential."
Andy Brunner, who was the Jets’ middle school coach the past two years, takes over for Craig Sims. He inherits a team that went 21-6 and lost to North Central 2-1 in the North Daviess Semistate semifinals.
Tessa Sims, who pitched Hauser to a Class A state title in 2015, has moved on to Indiana State. Three-year starter Sydney Schoen now is playing volleyball at Eastern Kentucky.
"There are some very big shoes to fill," Brunner said. "Losing a state champion Division I pitcher who also provided a lot of offense for us isn’t going to be easy to replace, and neither is Syd in the infield or Lauryn Starnes in the outfield. I’d love to have Tessa back, but I know we’re headed in the right direction."
Senior Hunter Crain has seen a lot of time in the circle the past two years when Tessa Sims has been injured. Sophomore Zoee Nading, who also did a little pitching last season, and freshman Stephanie Meek also could pitch this season.
Sophomore Zoee Artis, a transfer from East, likely will take over the catching duties when she becomes eligible under IHSAA transfer rules on April 5.
"We definitely have some flexibility with that position this year," Brunner said.
Junior Leah Joyce or Crain likely will be at first, and junior Shelby Fugate returns at second. Senior Mykenzie Ault, a starter in the outfield the past two years, moves to third.
Nading and freshman Abby Branum will provide speed at shortstop and center field, although which one plays which hasn’t been set. Freshman Morgan Bottoms takes over in left, and sophomore Hannah Johnson moves from catcher to right field.
Senior Kristin Keith and sophomore Lexi Tallent, who saw action in the outfield last season, also could play.
"We expect to have a successful season, and I think the group we have is very capable of making that happen," Brunner said.
The Crusaders return seven starters from a team that went 3-6 and finished second in the Indiana Christian Schools Athletic Association state tournament.
Columbus Christian has 17 girls out for the team, with eight of them being eighth-graders and one seventh-grader.
"I really expect us to win more," Columbus Christian coach Kendall Wildey said. "It’s still early for us, so a lot of positions are up in the air. We have a bunch back, so we have some experience there. Just the level of our early practices are so much better than they were the last couple of years."
Eighth-grader Emily Stair was the Crusaders’ main pitcher last season. Eighth-grader Kayden Hofelich returns at catcher and is the No. 2 pitcher.
Junior Ellie Ridder is back at first, but could move to third. Sophomore Hannah Stair returns at short. Eighth-grader Lydia Roth could step in at second.
The entire outfield is back with junior Emmie Felde in left, eighth-grader Kayla Jones in center and senior Adrienne Tallent in right.
Eighth-grader Madi Blair could play first or third and will catch when Hofelich pitches. Junior Shelby Nickerson, a transfer from East, could play outfield or infield, and eighth-grader Chesney Carr will be a utility player.
The Crusaders have added a couple of IHSAA schools to its schedule in South Decatur and Jac-Cen-Del.
"We’re going to be better, but our schedule is also stronger," Wildey said. "We picked up some good teams, and it’s going to be tough, but it will help us because when these eighth-graders are a couple years older, we’re going to be able to compete with those teams."
The Eagles have high hopes after losing only one senior from a team that went 16-4 and won the Western Indiana Conference title.
Back to lead that team is junior pitcher Emma Summers. The Loyola-Chicago recruit was a third-team Big School All-State selection last season.
"She’s a workhorse," Brown County coach Kevin Greve said. "She doesn’t want to not be in the circle. She works very hard, and she’s also an incredible hitter."
Junior Aubrey Hollander was the Eagles catcher last season, but tore an ACL last summer and likely will play third this year. Juniors Adri Kritzer, who played third, or Marley Nickels, who played some infield and outfield, could do the catching.
Junior Taylor Poling returns at first. Junior Allison Stogsdill is back at second and is the No. 2 pitcher. Junior Sara Fishel returns at short.
Junior Myka Snyder is back in center. Kritzer, Nickels, sophomore Kylie Herald and junior Whitney Clark are battling for the other outfield spots.
Seniors Gracie Bay in the outfield and Hailey Lane in the infield could see spot duty. Sophomore Isa Fogg could play some at first or in the outfield.
"We have some really nice options," Greve said. "We have a number of girls that we feel really good about."
The Panthers also lost only one starter and will look to improve on a 12-13 season.
Seniors Gabby Mahoney and Karlee Madinger and junior Haley Engelking did most of the pitching. They will be joined by sophomore Shelby Wilson.
Junior Carissa Sabelhaus returns at catcher. Mahoney, Engelking or Wilson will be at first. Junior Katie Mahoney or sophomore Brooke Mowery could play second.
Senior Kylee Matern, who broke her hand early last season, or junior Lexi South or sophomore Skylar Weber will be at short. South or Engelking will play third.
Matern or senior Madi Skinner will be in center. Skinner or sophomore Tori Lee will play left, and Lee or Katie Mahoney will be in right.
Sophomore Averi Zamora could see action at catcher or in the outfield. Freshman Delaynee McCreary will be a utility player.
"I think that with the couple of injuries we had last year, there was a lot of experience gained," Jennings coach Bobby Willis said. "I look for everybody to improve from top to bottom. If we take care of business and do the little things right, we’re going to be a tough team."
The Lancers have a new coach in Ben Taylor. Taylor replaces Stephen Clark, who led Edinburgh to a Class A regional title in 2017 and a 14-8 record last season.
"They’ve had some really good seasons, and looking at the schedule, I don’t see us dipping that much from what they did last year," Taylor said.
Clark’s daughter Maddi, the Lancers’ pitching ace the past four years, has graduated. Taking over the pitching duties will be senior Grace Joiner, who missed most of last season with an injury, along with freshman Shelby Graham and sophomore Catey Streeval, a transfer from North.
Senior Sidney Beier, Edinburgh’s top hitter, and senior Emma Wade will again shuttle between catcher and third. Sophomores Gracie Long and Kaitlyn Bailey return at second and short, although which will play which one of those positions is yet to be determined.
Joiner, senior Taylor Littiken and Streeval could play first. Junior Paige Burton returns in center, and freshman Carly Cowan takes over in left. Sophomore Morgan Calhoun and freshman Angel Carman are battling in right.
Junior Abby Schooler, who is returning from an ACL injury, will figure into the mix in the outfield when she is healthy.
"Our defense is going to be good," Taylor said. "Our pitchers are looking good. Bats will be one that I have a question with. We have a solid hitter with Sidney. It’s trying to see what we can put around her."
The Cougars return five starters from a team that went 4-15 last season.
Senior Sam Goodfellow returns behind the plate, and seniors Karah Biddinger and Annie Gant are back at second and third. Junior Sierra Lang, the top hitter last season, played first and center field, and sophomore Megan Manlief returns in left field.
Lang and Megan Manlief could fill the pitching duties or play shortstop this season. Sophomore Erynn Dyer also could pitch or play shortstop or in the outfield, and freshman Emma Howard could do some pitching.
Sophomore Lana Bell, who is doing both softball and track, could play in the outfield, and junior Madison Shields could see action at first. Freshman Brook Somers and juniors Ashlyn Baker also could play in the outfield, and junior Aubrey Hamer will provide depth at second.
"I think we’re looking pretty good from what I’ve seen so far," South Decatur coach Lisa Huff said. "I have options at pitching, but that’s probably going to be one of our weaknesses. Finding a shortstop is going to be quite the struggle, too. Hitting, we look pretty decent so far."
Bob Tabeling, who coached baseball at Trinity for 13 years, takes over as the Cougars’ softball coach. He replaces Chad Goecker, who led Trinity to a 9-10 record last season.
Five starters return for the Cougars, led by senior shortstop Savannah Harweger. Sophomore Genesis Munoz is back at catcher, along with sophomore Bailey Reynolds at first and junior Jaryn Holtsclaw at third. Junior Emma Goecker moves from right to center.
Freshman Kamzi Gross will take over the pitching duties. Freshman Ally Russell steps in at second, and freshman Hannah Kerkoff takes over in left. Senior newcomer Sidney Hoene will play in right.
Freshmen Taylar Hobbs and Carissa Newcomber also could see action in the outfield.
"Our infield should be solid with experience, but our outfield is going to be fairly new," Tabeling said. "I think we’ll be pretty steady on defense, but it will be definitely an opportunity with the younger players facing varsity pitching. The speed of the game picks up so quick at this age."
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March 28;Bloomington North;6 p.m.
March 30;Bloomington South (DH);10 a.m.
April 2;Brownstown Central;5:30 p.m.
April 4;at Floyd Central;6 p.m.
April 5;Brown County;5 p.m.
April 6;Greensburg (DH);11 a.m.
April 13;Mt. Vernon (DH);10 a.m.
April 15;Columbus North;5 p.m.
April 18;at Seymour;5:30 p.m.
April 20;at Franklin (DH);10 a.m.
April 23;Jennings County;5 p.m.
April 26;at Bedford North Lawrence;5:30 p.m.
April 29;at New Albany;6 p.m.
April 30;at Madison;5:30 p.m.
May 2;Trinity Lutheran;5 p.m.
May 6;HHC Tournament;TBA
May 8;HHC Tournament;TBA
May 10;HHC Tournament;TBA
March 30;vs. Terre Haute North at Center Grove;Noon
March 30;vs. Terre Haute South at Center Grove; 2 p.m.
April 4;at Shelbyville;5:30 p.m.
April 5;East Central;5:30 p.m.
April 8;Whiteland;5:30 p.m.
April 9;Seymour;5:30 p.m.
April 11;Franklin Central;6 p.m.
April 13;at Brown County Invitational;9 a.m.
April 15;at Columbus East;5 p.m.
April 16;Bloomington North;6 p.m.
April 18;at Southport;6 p.m.
April 20;at Center Grove Invitational;10 a.m.
April 25;at Perry Meridian;5:30 p.m.
April 27;at Silver Creek (DH);11 a.m.
April 29;at Edinburgh;5 p.m.
May 2;Indian Creek;5:30 p.m.
May 6;at Brownstown Central;5:30 p.m.
May 7;at Bloomington South;5:30 p.m.
May 8;at Greensburg;5:30 p.m.
May 14;Jennings County;5:30 p.m.
May 16;at Hauser;5 p.m.
April 9;at Indianapolis Tindley;5:30 p.m.
April 11;Horizon Christian;5:30 p.m.
April 15;Rock Creek Acdemy;5:30 p.m.
April 22;South Decatur;5:30 p.m.
April 23;Traders Point Christian;5:30 p.m.
April 25;Jac-Cen-Del;5:30 p.m.
April 30;at Indiana Deaf;5:30 p.m.
May 3;at Dugger Union;5:30 p.m.
May 4;MadisonShawe (DH);10 a.m.
May 6;Traders Point Christian;5:30 p.m.
May 7;Providence Cristo Rey;5:30 p.m.
May 9;at Horizon Christian;5:30 p.m.
May 13;Rock Creek Academy;5:30 p.m.
May 16;ICSAA State Tournament at Grand Park;TBA
Tuesday;Brownstown Central;5:30 p.m.
April 1;Rising Sun;6 p.m.
April 4;Edinburgh;5 p.m.
April 5;at Edinburgh;5 p.m.
April 11;North Decatur;5 p.m.
April 12;at North Decatur;5 p.m.
April 13;at Brown County Invitational, 9 a.m.
April 15;at Triton Central;5 p.m.
April 18;Waldron;5 p.m.
April 19;at Waldron;5 p.m.
April 22;Rushville;5 p.m.
April 25;at Southwestern (Shelby);5 p.m.
April 26;Southwestern (Shelby);5 p.m.
April 30;Greensburg;5:30 p.m.
May 4;Lawrenceburg (DH);11 a.m.
May 7;at Trinity Lutheran; 5 p.m.
May 9;at South Decatur;5 p.m.
May 10;South Decatur;5 p.m.
May 11;at East Central (DH);11 a.m.
May 13;Morristown;5:30 p.m.
May 14;at Morristown;5:30 p.m.
May 16;Columbus North;5 p.m.