TROY — Both the present and the future looks bright for the Triad Knights' softball program.
The Knights have a strong group of pitchers and hitters spread out from their senior class through their freshman class.
They lost only two seniors from a squad that posted a 24-10 record and captured a regional championship last season.
"The girls are talking about, 'When we go to state,' and things like that, so they have high expectations for themselves,'' Triad coach Kris Kleeman said. "We try to slow them down and tell them one game at a time. I think the expectation is not only to enter the postseason with a great record, but advance as far as we can.''
The Knights (2-0) opened the season with an impressive 5-1 win over the Belleville East Lancers.
"That was a great way to start the season,'' Kleeman said. "Prior to that, we had been outside only four times, and only twice had we been able to actually get on the diamond. It was one of those situations where you weren't quite sure how the girls had progressed because the ball doesn't fly or bounce off the gym floor like it does in the dirt.''
The Knights bring back all four of their pitchers -- senior Kelsey Bailey, juniors Jenn Bailey and Nikki Steiner and sophomore Jordyn Alford -- from last season.
"It's nice to have,'' Kleeman said of her pitching options. "When I first coached years ago with Bruce Lewis, we had Stacey Evans and she was only pitcher and she pitched all 31 games. To be able to have a staff of pitchers, where at anytime you can rotate someone in and start someone new and give someone a rest is really enjoyable to coach.''
Kelsey Bailey had a 9-6 record with 1.65 ERA in 16 starts, while Jenn Bailey was 9-4 with 1.76 ERA in 11 starts.
Steiner was 6-0 with a 1.58 ERA in spot duty and Alford had a 0.50 ERA with one save in primarily a relief role.
While Kelsey Bailey will handle the largest work load, all four pitches bring different attributes to the mound.
"I think Alford throws the hardest of the four, Nikki is a left-hander so that itself is something that is rare, Kelsey struggled with her changeup last year and she has really worked on that, and I have never seen a pitcher who can cause the ball to spin like Jenn does. Her screwball is really, really good.''
All four pitchers also can hit and play other positions.
Alford plays third base when she's not pitching, Jenn Bailey plays first or third when she's not pitching, Kelsey Bailey plays first base when she's not pitching and Steiner plays in the outfield when she's not pitching.
"I'm old school,'' Kleeman said. "If you're going to play in the field, you're going to hit.''
Kaci Ovelgoenner, who led the Knights with a .431 batting average last season, has graduated.
Kelsey Bailey was second in batting average at .421. She also led the Knights with seven homers and 36 RBIs.
"We've been working this spring on trying to take the outside pitch over the right-field fence instead of the left-field fence,'' Kleeman said of Kelsey Bailey. "We're going to miss her next year tremendously. We miss Kaci Ovelgoenner in our lineup this year already. Kelsey is for sure our power hitter.''
Junior Abigail Schroeter, sophomore Beth Mersinger and freshman Abby Burroughs, the younger sister of former Triad standout Paige Burroughs, are working at catcher.
Sophomore Alleigh Kruse will play second base and senior Amy Hunt, who hit .360 with a team-leading 33 runs scored last season, returns at shortstop.
Juniors Avery Meyers, Mycala Feldman and Steiner along with Mersinger are the outfielders.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.