Heading into her second season as Althoff’s head softball coach, Carol Belleville will field a roster of 18 players that, as a group, is both younger and more experienced than last year’s team.
The 2014 Crusaders started with just nine players, forcing Belleville to scout the school’s hallways for add-ons. The inexperienced group she assembled struggled to a 3-25 record.
“I had five girls starting that had never played softball before at all,” she said. “I don’t mean high school level, I mean at all. One was my third highest hitter for almost half the year — she was a dancer.
“But they came in, worked hard and gave it their all, which is all you can ask for. They just weren’t athletes.”
The new season has a decidedly bigger upside.
Belleville includes 10 freshmen among the 18 on the roster. Four of them have so far earned starting positions. She’ll go to the mound with a sophomore and junior who logged the bulk of the Crusaders’ inning a year ago.
Mostly, the entire roster brings a level of experience most of her players didn’t have a year ago.
How quickly that translates into wins remains to be seen — Althoff is off to an 0-2 start — but it looks pretty good for the future of the program, Belleville says.
“To have that many youngsters is exciting,” she said. “It’ll be a challenge to bring them all together as a unit, but having girls who have all played is 12 steps ahead of last year.
“It will be a fun year and we should see be nothing but growth.”
Junior Lindsay Harris led Althoff with 72.7 innings pitched, a 5.88 ERA last year, all three of her team’s victories in 2014. She’ll carry a majority of the pitching load against this season. Sophomore Kennedy Sims also returns after logging signifcant innings last season. She also hit .254 with eight runs batted in.
Both Harris and Kennedy will get playing time at third and first base as well.
“My pitchers are probably two of my more sound fielders as well,” Belleville said. “It’s easy to justify putting them somewhere else in the line up when they are not pitching.”
Sophomore Libby Fries and senior Julia Michael are competing for playing time at first base. Senior Kristin Speichinger is penciled in at second as is freshman Maria Davinroy at shortstop.
Freshmen Annika Beal and Lydia Gehrs are competing for playing time at third.
In the outfield will be returning starters Sandy Amorado in left and Laura Simoneaux in right, both seniors. Freshman Leighton Kaiser is the starter in center.
Mariana Babic is the Crusaders’ catcher.
Belleville cautions, however, that with 10 freshmen on the team and practice time limited by the weather and the state championship run by the school’s boys’ basketball team, competition will remain open at all positions.
“I’m not as happy, yet, with the amount of work ethic we’ve shown, but now that the weather has broken and we can practice and play on this field that will change,” Belleville said. “It’s just really limited. I’ve probably only had two practices with all 18 girls. That makes it hard to see what they can do.
“But, it is what it is. All we can do is keep working and getting better. I do tell the girls though, I guarantee that whatever the lineup is now won’t be the same lineup by the end of the season.”