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CANNELTON—The addition of a strong freshman class should improve Cannelton’s girls softball team’s defense this season.
The Bulldogs return seven letter winners from last year’s 0-11 team. But some of the five freshmen have played more softball games than some of the upperclassmen.
“I think we’re going to be better defensively than we were last year,” said Coach Brian Garrett. “We’ve got some kids who’ve been playing in the Tell City summer league for several years and that’s definitely going to help.”
Two of the returnees starred in Tell City’s age-13-16 league last year. Stephanie Posey hit .415 for Swiss Plywood and Jaci Garrett was a power-hitting catcher for league champion Hair Razors.
Posey will again be the Bulldogs’ No. 1 pitcher, though she’ll also “catch some to give Jaci’s arm a little bit of rest,” said Brian Garrett. “When Stephanie catches, Jaci will play first base.
“We’re going to move some kids around defensively to try to get out of innings. Stephanie can catch and play first base, shortstop or outfield—she can play anywhere. And Payton Reed can play anywhere on the infield or anywhere in the outfield. That versatility’s going to help us.”
Reed, a freshman, will probably start the season at second base, said Garrett. Sarah Powers, another freshman, will play mainly shortstop or second and her senior sister, Brooke Powers, returns at third base.
Besides Garrett and Posey, first base candidates include Shy May and Sammie James. May will also see action in the outfield.
Garrett said his starting outfield for Saturday’s season opener will probably be Leah Mascolo in center and Hannah Baur and Gracie Kellems on the corners.
“I’m real pleased with our defense,” said Garrett. “I can get people in different spots when I need to and find what we can do well.”
He said the defense is really important because “I don’t have that pitcher who can strike out 10, 12 or 13 batters a game. At times last year Stephanie felt like she had to try to strike out everybody because we didn’t make plays behind her.”
James will be the Bulldogs’ No. 2 pitcher. She pitched seven innings for Tell City’s age-13-14 all-stars last summer, going 1-1.
Garrett said the team’s hitting is “decent. It’s not where I would like for it to be. But all of them can put it in play.”
Sarah Powers, who batted leadoff and hit .321 for Tell City’s 13-14 all-stars last summer, will also bat leadoff for the Bulldogs.
She will be followed by Posey, Garrett and Brooke Powers. May and Kellems are competing for the fifth spot, with Reed likely to follow them.
“We’re kind of all the same once we get past the top five,” said Brian Garrett.
He said the team has “a little bit of speed. Sarah’s fast, Stephanie has decent speed, Jaci’s pretty fast, Payton’s pretty fast, and Leah Mascolo has been running down balls in the outfield.”
Garrett also said the Bulldogs have “a little bit” of power. But “we’re not going to blow the ball out of the yard.”
Asked to list the Bulldogs’ top opponents, Garrett said, “Definitely Tecumseh. They’re by far the best A school in the area.” The Braves placed second in the Class A state tourney last year and return star pitcher Audra Sanders.
“Northeast Dubois also has a good pitcher back,” said Garrett.
Because some of the smaller schools Cannelton faces in basketball don’t field softball teams, “everybody on our schedule will be tough for us,” said Garrett.
Tecumseh and Northeast Dubois are also in the same sectional with Cannelton, along with Wood Memorial.
For Cannelton to have a chance to win the sectional, “we would have to play absolutely perfect softball and their pitchers would have to be off,” said Garrett.