The Belleville West softball lineup you see today may not be the same lineup you see tomorrow.
That’s because ninth-year head coach Casey Garrett has options, and she intends to exhaust the possibilities before settling on her everyday nine.
“We have good senior leaders and we’ve got lots of youngsters,” said Garrett, “so we’re going to have different lineups for a while.”
The Maroons finished 14-20 in 2016 and have lost big bats in the middle of their lineup to graduation. That includes Olivia Young, the scholar athlete and all-area slugger, who was among metro-east leaders in batting average (.494), home runs (10), triples (4) and RBIs (33).
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West also took big hits with the graduations of outfielder Megan Glaeser (.362, 25 runs, 21 RBI) and Morgan Hinkle (.296, 2 home runs, 24 RBIs).
But Garrett says the Maroons can make up the offense from a roster that skews young.
Five seniors and three juniors return, but seven sophomores and freshmen will be called upon to make contributions.
“Of course we miss our seniors from last year, but we have seniors through freshmen starting right now, and we have gotten hits up and down the lineup in our first two games,” Garrett said. “I’m not too concerned about our ability to produce runs.
“We’ll have ups and downs as all teams do, but I’m confident with what we can put out there defensively too.”
The keystones to the Maroons’ lineup are senior Kiri Evans and sophomore Aleigh Cory. Both have been standout catchers but are athletic enough to be Garrett’s best options at positions where there is less depth.
Of course we miss our seniors from last year, but we have seniors through freshmen starting right now, and we have gotten hits up and down the lineup in our first two games.
Casey Garrett, Belleville West softball coach
Evans earned all-area honors as a utility player last season, sharing time with Cory behind the plate while also anchoring left field. The diminutive team co-captain hit .436 from the leadoff spot, ranking among area leaders with 34 runs scored and 11 doubles. She also drove in 21 runs, while striking out just 10 times in 126 plate appearances.
Cory made a mark as a freshman, batting .382 with two home runs in 68 at-bats, and has been working this spring as both catcher and shortstop.
“She is just an all-around great athlete and a great kid in general,” Garrett said. “She can probably play any position and play it well. We can put her anywhere, and she’s athletic enough to figure it out.”
Where Cory and Evans plays on a given day will depend on who’s pitching.
Isabella “Izzy” Holtrop, a four-year varsity starter, led the Maroons in innings pitched each of the last two seasons. She’s slated to anchor third base, however, and isn’t likely to be a factor in the circle in 2017.
That leaves pitching duties to a young rotation that includes juniors Paige Cates (8-7, 3.06 ERA, 94 K in 84.7 innings pitched in 2016), Allyson Winkleman (0-0, 3 IP) and sophomore Mackenzie Skaer (0-0, 4 IP).
“Paige really stepped up last year, and we are looking forward to all three of our pitchers stepping up this year,” Garrett said.
Paige really stepped up last year, and we are looking forward to all three of our pitchers stepping up this year.
Senior Alyssa James (.290, .366 OBP, 17 RBIs) will anchor first base with backup by sophomore Haley Dunn. Kayla Oglesby (.191 in 47 AB), another senior, returns at second base with competition from freshman Abby Gibson.
Cory figures to get most of her playing time at shortstop, though she’ll be assisted by sophomore Tori Oldham (.100 in 20 varsity at-bats last year) and freshman Clair Marlen.
Megan Skaer, a twin to Mackenzie, is a third catcher and back up to Holtrop at third.
Senior co-captain Kailey Bold anchors the outfield in center with either Evans or Oldham in left and junior Aslinn Harris, freshman Clair Marlen or Winkleman in right.