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LEOPOLD—Perry Central’s girls softball team returns all but one starter from last year’s team and “is pretty much ahead of last year defensively,” said Coach Greg Gibson.
The Commodores are still a young team, with only three seniors on their 26-girl roster. And they may start only one senior in Friday’s season opener, as returning pitcher Abby Preher is sidelined until at least mid-April following wrist surgery.
But last year’s experience and a drier than usual March that has allowed them to hold all but two of their practices outdoors has helped their defense.
“Last year the first time we took infield was when we played Corydon,” noted Gibson.
This year “our infield is really solid and I think our outfield is better than last year,” said Gibson. “Up the middle we’re real solid.
“Overall on a scale of 1 to 10 I’d give our defense and 8. We’ve turned a lot of double plays against the JV kids and we’re not making a lot of errors.”
Junior Cassy Schaad returns as the starting catcher. “She’s gotten better at the blocking part of it and being more aware at situations behind the plate,” said Gibson.
Three starting infielders return: Tara Claise at first base, Emily Tempel at second, and Hilarie Hahus at shortstop.
Freshman Kristi Brumfield will play a lot at third base when she’s not pitching.
Mary Crook and April Ransom are also candidates at third, and Ransom will likely serve as the designated hitter again at times.
The returning starting outfield from left to right is Haley Lewis, Morgan Gibson and Heather Cooper. Chelsea Hendricks will back them up.
The Commodores went 3-17 last year, with Preher getting two of the wins.
With her sidelined, junior Cassie Wilgus, who went 1-6 with 15 strikeouts and 25 walks in 32 innings, is slated to start at pitcher Friday. “She’s worked real hard,” said Greg Gibson.
Brumfield, the hardest thrower on the team, “is No. 2 right now,” said Gibson. “Her control’s getting better.”
Still Gibson doesn’t expect any of the team’s pitchers to strike out a lot of batters. “We’re going to have throw strikes and not walk people, and we’re going to have to play defense behind them,” he said.
As for the team’s hitting, it’s “up and down,” said Gibson. “We’ve worked hard on mechanics all spring. We’re going to have to cut down our strikeouts (they had more than one per inning last year). We’ve worked hard on bunting and slapping.”
Hahus, the team’s top hitter last year at .306, is slated to bat leadoff, followed by Gibson, Schaad, Tempel and Claise, with the rest of the order yet to be decided.
Gibson hit .276 and led the team with eight stolen bases in nine attempts last year as a freshman. Tempel hit .226 and led the team in RBIs with 12.
Though Perry Central was last in the PLAC with a 1-5 record last year, “we were right in every conference game,” noted Greg Gibson. “Nobody shut us out in the conference.”
So with more experience this year he thinks “we could battle for” the PLAC title. “Crawford County probably has the best player in the conference in (shortstop Chelsea Benham), but no one has an outstanding pitcher. West Washington has a couple of young (pitchers) with potential.”
Can the Commodores compete for the Class 2A sectional title?
“I don’t know—that’s a long way away,” said Gibson. “We’d have to make some improvements, but defensively I think we can play with anyone there.”