ST. LOUIS — There's a youth movement underway with the Belleville West softball program.
The Maroons have only two seniors -- Cassandra Craig and Hannah Slimack -- back from a squad that went 14-15 last season.
"We're going to be very young,,'' said West coach Casey Garrett, whose team opens 2014 season on the road against the Columbia Eagles on Tuesday at Eagleview Elementary School. "They're going to make their mistakes in the beginning, but they're smart girls and I'm hoping they'll learn from their mistakes and just improve throughout the season.''
The Maroons' youth is especially evident with their pitching staff, which includes a junior, two sophomores and a freshman.
None of those four pitchers threw a pitch on the varsity level last season.
Garrett sad junior Bethany Dain, sophomores McKenzie Sisk and Paige Dubs and freshman Isabella Holtrop all are vying for mound time.
"They work hard, and that's what it takes to improve.
"I gave all the pitchers varsity uniforms because right now they are all basically at the same level,'' Garrett said. "I have to see who is not only physically strong, but being so young, I have to see who is mentally tough enough to pitch against varsity level batters.''
Slimack, who played first base last year, and freshman Kiri Evans are the catchers.
Slimack batted .284 with 12 RBIs last year.
Junior Juanda Eisemann also can catch, but she's still recovering from injuries sustained in a car accident.
Craig is working at first base, and sophomore Megan Glaeser is working at second base. Both saw part-time action last year.
Hannah Biermann, who batted .422 last season, will handle the duties at shortstop after sharing time at second base with Glaeser last year.
Sophomore Sidnie Spargur and junior Danielle Touchette, who batted .297 with 12 RBIs last year, are the third basemen.
Juniors Emily Fulton and Alliyah St. John, who hit .380 with a team-leading 31 runs scored last season, sophomore Olivia Young will patrol the outfield.
Garrett is confident that her young squad will make great strides as the season progresses.
"I definitely feel optimistic about them,'' Garrett said. "They are a great bunch of girls and they work hard every day. They're putting their best foot forward, they're giving the best effort they can and they are all looking to improve.''
And, that could lead to bigger and better things in the next few years.
"This year, we are working to improve and next year we'll hopefully have all of those pitchers back,'' Garrett said. "They'll be more experienced and hopefully we'll be strong for the next few years.''
Garrett was on maternity leave all of last season. Former coach Bob Yagge came out of retirement to coach the Maroons in Garrett's absence.
"I was there for tryouts to set the team, and after tryouts, I let Yagge take over since I wasn't going to be there to coach at all,'' Garrett said.
Now that Garrett is back, Yagge will serve as an assistant coach this season. Kerri Dockins and former coach Kelly Baltz also will help out.
Kassandra Korte will serve as the junior varsity coach. She'll be helped by former coach Tom Ninnis and Courtney Orange.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.