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TELL CITY - Tell City's girls softball team returns five starters from last year's 12-12 team but may also start two sophomores and two freshmen.
And three of the returning starters will be playing different positions than last year, though they are positions they played extensively last summer.
New coach Dusty Beard, a longtime assistant with the Marksmen, expects pitching and defense to be among the team's strengths.
Josalyn Ress will be the main pitcher. She is a freshman but has been pitching for years. With the help of an Evansville pitching coach she has developed six different pitches.
She went 10-1 with a 2.33 earned run average for Tell City's age-13-16 league champions, Swiss Plywood, last summer, striking out 108 in 45 innings.
And her control improved as the season progressed, as she walked only three in her last 16 innings.
The starting infield will be Kara McClintic at third base, Lauren Goffinet at shortstop, Leslie Poole at second, and Amber Thomas at first.
McClintic, one of only two seniors on the team, is a returning starter at third. Goffinet started at catcher last year and Thomas started in center field, but they have also excelled at short and first for years in summer play.
Paige Gelarden returns in left field and senior Casi Hay will move from right to center, which she played in 10 all-star games last summer.
"Right field is a tossup between Jamie Brinksneader and Sidney Grass," said Beard. Brinksneader is a sophomore and Grass is a freshman transfer from Heritage Hills.
Sophomore Kyli Smithson will start at catcher, where she played several games for Troy Clinic in Tell City's 13-16 league last summer.
She is still inexperienced at that position "but I think she'll come around in time," said Beard.
Because of inclement weather, most of the Marksmen's batting practice has been indoors against a pitching machine.
Beard thinks the hitting "looks good" so far. "Of course we haven't hit against live pitching yet, but they're hitting the machine real well. Everyone's making contact."
Graduated Alicia Doogs was the Marksmen's only consistent hitter last year, as she hit .352 with a school-record six home runs.
But Goffinet and Thomas hit well against all-star competition last summer and appear ready to break out with strong varsity hitting seasons.
Goffinet hit .545 in 10 games against all-star competition last summer and Thomas hit .596 for Swiss Plywood.
Beard said Grass is the team's fastest player and is a left-handed slap hitter, which could help her compile a high batting average.
He said the team has good speed overall and has some power with Goffinet, Thomas and McClintic. "Kara's been hitting the ball real well."
Beard also plans to rely a lot on "small-ball" offense. "Everybody bunts well. That's one of the keys they've got to do this year. We're going to use a lot of sacrificing and hit-and-run."
The Marksmen will once again face a strong schedule, and their conference, the PAC, has gotten even stronger with the addition of Forest Park.
"I would say the top one in the conference would be North Posey--they're ranked No. 3 in the state (in Class 2A) right now," said Beard.
The Marksmen tied for fifth in the conference at 2-5 last year. "Right now we should be right in the middle of it," said Beard.
The Class 2A sectional "is going to be pretty tough with South Spencer, North Posey and Forest Park, and now Mater Dei, in it," said Beard.
He thinks the Marksmen also figure to be "right in the middle" of that group also.
But "if we get a good draw, you never know what could happen. We need to stay healthy for one thing, though, and we can't make mistakes."