North softball poised to make big postseason run

The case this year is, it’s more reloading and not rebuilding.

The Columbus North softball team is expected to have another strong season once again. The incoming freshman class, along with seasoned veterans, have given the Bull Dogs another chance at chasing a state berth as they’ll be among the top teams in the state.

North is poised to make a deep run in the postseason. It ended in heartbreak at the sectional final last year, falling to Shelbyville, who went on to the semistate final before falling to eventual Class 4A state champion Roncalli.

“This team is going to be pretty special, I believe,” North coach Ron McDonald said. “I think that we’re going to be very good. We‘ve got to look to not beat ourselves, but we’ve got a chance to go pretty far. We’d like to bounce back from last year, where we lost in the sectional. This year, we are looking forward to take that next step.”

It all starts with senior Maddi Rutan, who is one of the most versatile players in the state. Last year, the Eastern Kentucky recruit went 12-3 with an 0.59 ERA in the circle and led the Bull Dogs with a .538 batting average and 12 home runs.

“Maddi’s been so competitive. She works hard,” McDonald said. “She’s picked up another two or three miles per hour on her pitching. Her change-up is devastating. Her hitting is just phenomenal. The ball just explodes off her bat. She’s a special player.”

Other top returners from a team that went 20-4 include seniors Bailey King, Josie Lemmons, Kaylee Cowan, Kirsten Danford and Kayden Hofelich.

Columbus North’s Josie Lemmons makes contact during the sectional final against Shelbyville May 27, 2022, at Bloomington North High School. Tommy Walker/For The Republic

The Republic file photo

King and Lemmons likely will return at first and second base, respectively, for the majority of games this season. Cowan could play many positions this year, include first, third and catcher, but McDonald said Cowan can play anywhere in the infield if needed. Danford will have the majority of the catching duties again this year, and will stay in the batting lineup on games where she’s not catching.

The lone junior, Kelsey Lovelace, likely will play shortstop during games with Rutan pitching and will be utilized in either the infield or outfield in games when Rutan isn’t pitching.

McDonald also welcomes a strong incoming freshman class. The top freshman, Payton Morris, will be the team’s other pitcher and also can play third. Morgan Jarvis and Miley McClellan are two other freshmen that have speed and will bring depth in the outfield.

“Payton’s going to make an immediate impact. She’s going to be special in the next few years for us pitching. She’s going to be very valuable this year,” McDonald said. ” Hopefully, (Jarvis and McClellan) can help us because they’re very fast, and also in our lineup because they being a lot of speed. This year, we’re going to be so much faster than we’ve had in previous times…With those two in the outfield, they can cover a lot of ground.”

The other freshmen that will be looking to make big contributions to the team this year include Bailee Scruggs, Avery Shehan and Ali Wooten. McDonald said he sees a bright future and a big integral part of the team in the program.

McDonald also has three sophomores in Destinee Allman, Summer Williams and Lily Retz who are looking to make big contributions to the team, as well. Williams could challenge for a lineup spot, too.

The Bull Dogs have another rigorous schedule this year. They play a lot of top teams in the state, including Roncalli, which features two-time Gatorade Indiana Player of the Year Keagan Rothrock, along with Castle and two games against Bedford North Lawrence.

This will be the final run for McDonald, who announced before the season that this year will be his final year coaching the program, a position he’s held since 2017.

“We want to have fun and hopefully make a great run this year for my last time coaching. I’m really looking forward to it,” McDonald said. “Some of my girls have been special over the years, but this group is going to be pretty special.”

The 2023 Columbus North softball schedule: 

March 30;East Central;6 p.m.

April 1;Terre Haute North;Noon

April 1;Terre Haute South;2 p.m.

April 4;at Roncalli;5:30 p.m.

April 6;at Shelbyville;5:30 p.m.

April 10;Whiteland;5:30 p.m.

April 11;Seymour;5:30 p.m.

April 15;Castle (DH) Noon

April 17;at Columbus East;5 p.m.

April 18;Bloomington North;6 p.m.

April 20;at Southport;6 p.m.

April 22;at Center Grove;10 a.m.

April 22;vs. BNL at Center Grove;Noon

April 25;Bedford North Lawrence;6 p.m.

April 26;Floyd Central;6 p.m.

April 27;at Perry Meridian;5:30 p.m.

April 29;at Franklin Central Invitational;10 a.m.

May 4;Greenwood;5:30 p.m.

May 8;at Brownstown Central;5:30 p.m.

May 9;at Bloomington South;6 p.m.

May 13;Columbus North Invitational;9 a.m.

May 16;Jennings County;5:30 p.m.

May 18;Hauser;5 p.m.