Southwestern Illinois College softball coach Kathy Bernal is trying her best to have a short term memory when it comes to the recently completed ‘16 season. And with good reason.
After several solid middle-of-the-pack finishes in the Great Rivers Athletic Conference, the Blue Storm program hit rock bottom this Spring, finishing with a 7-43 record.
“We aren’t talking about this past season. It was just horrendous,’’ Bernal said on Tuesday. “We just couldn’t put every facet of the game together at any one time this season and it was just a very rough year for everyone in the program.
“On days when we hit, the pitching struggled. On days, when we had good pitching and we had some close games, our bats would go silent. Plus the one element I thought would be a strength going into the year, our defense, is an area where we really struggled. We just want to put this season behind us and move on.’’
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And with the addition of nine incoming freshmen to the program beginning in August, Bernal and the Blue Storm are looking ahead.
Ledbetter, two others join Blue Storm pitching staff
One of the top players in the Cahokia Conference this past season, Josie Ledbetter of Freeburg headlines a trio of pitchers who will join the Blue Storm staff next season.
A major part of a Midgets team which won 25 games in’16, Ledbetter was 7-1 on the mound while hitting .383 with six home runs and adding a team-leading 39 RBI. The versatile Ledbetter can also play in the outfield and will see time as a designated hitter for SWIC next season.
“We had some of our pitchers miss some time this season with sore arms. But we’ve got two pitchers returning from our staff of a year ago and so we’re hoping that they will come back and do what is necessary to get ready for next year so it doesn’t happen again. They’ll know what to expect next year,’’ Bernal said. “We’ve got three new pitchers coming in and we feel good about their potential to help us out.’’
“It’s good to have pitchers who throw different speeds and have the ability to mix their pitches and get hitters out. PLus all three of these pitchers can also play in the field which is good because when you play as many games as we do in a short period of time, you need depth and kids who can move around.
Also joining the Blue Storm staff are Aspen Lohman from Wesclin and Abby Ratermann from (Breese) Central.
Lohman, who can also play first base, was 4-12 for the Warriors, while Ratermann, a highly-touted infielder, was 5-1 for the Cougars while also hitting .333 with 25 RBI.
“Abby was a good third baseman and so when she wasn’t pitching she played a lot in the field. Again, she’s the type of player we like in that she can play multiple positions in the field. Pitching wise, she can throw pretty hard as well,’’ Bernal said. “Aspen (Lohman) didn’t have a good year but her sister played for me and I’ve known and watched her play for a long time. I think she’ll be able to help us.’’
Six others also sign
Ledbetter’s Freeburg teammate, Kim Hoffmann, is one of six position players who will try to make an impact on the Blue Storm squad next season.
Hoffmann, a left-handed catcher, hit .412 with a home run and 25 RBI while also playing good defense this season.
Infielders Mo Rodriguez from Wesclin (.293, 1 home run, 16 RBI), Katy Polacek from Waterloo (.271 7 RBI) and Andrea Russell from Edwardsville also join the SWIC squad as do outfielder Tori Dall from Central (.294. 10 RBI) and utility player Lauren Westerfield from Belleville East (.375, 5 RBI).