- Knights return seven starters to 2006 squad
By CAREY FOX
The Northview softball team begins their second season under head coach Bethany Jones this season and will be able to count experience as one of their strongest weapons this year.
After compiling a 16-11-1 record last year, the Knights know that they have the talent to play with the best in the state.
Northview went toe-to-toe with eventual state champion Martinsville, each team threw up zeros for 11 straight innings before the game was called due to darkness in a scoreless tie. The Artesians, who went on to win the Northview Sectional last year, put together a sterling 26-1-1 mark and were ranked third in 4A.
The Knights also played eventually 2A champion Gibson Southern tight during a midseason tourney before dropping a 4-3 decision.
So Northview knows the talent was there last season and the squad returns seven starters after graduating senior third baseman Casey Challandes, rightfielder Chandra Burns and second half starter Jessica Raderstorf.
"We lost three key players from last season's team," admitted Jones. "But we've got a strong freshman class and the girls who played JV last year have played a lot of travel ball. I'd say that half the team played travel ball and have gained a lot of experience."
That experience is what will be a big key to the success of the 2006 squad.
The pitching position is one of the strongest spots for Northview this year as junior Stephanie Jonson returns to the circle after a solid 16-11 mark and a 1.81 ERA.
Jones believes that Northview will have more depth in the circle this year with freshman Katie Smith figuring into the mix as well.
"We've got Steph (Jonson) back this year," commented Jones. "But we've got a couple more pitchers this year. Katie will see some varsity time and another freshman (Shelby Colson) could help us out too."
That versatility could provide a big boost to the Knights after Jonson threw 201 of 203 total varsity innings last year. She struck out 169 batters over the course of that while walking 52 and added seven shutouts.
"We've talked to the pitchers about strategies this year," mentioned Jones. "We can throw some different pitchers out there and if Katie starts then they start timing her then we can bring Stephanie in too."
One thing the Knights could improve on is their offensive production this season.
Last year, Northview averaged .246 as a team while holding teams to .153. Kayla Glassburn led the squad with a .333 average and slugged .441 for the year while driving in 10 and scoring 16 times.
While Raderstorf, Burns and Challandes held the next three highest averages, Jones thinks that the offense will improve through the work they've done in the preseason.
"We've been focusing on hitting so far and the girls have worked hard on it. I think we're pretty solid on defense and I have a lot of confidence in the girls."
Speed on the basepaths was another key component of the Northview gameplan last year and should remain a big part this season.
Glassburn stole 16 bases to lead the team with Jennifer Gregg a perfect 14-of-14 on the year as was Kyler Clark.
Glassburn, Gregg and Sky Singleton will provide the senior leadership for the squad this year and will be counted on to help lead a team that will feature 11 freshmen. That depth has enabled the team to begin a freshmen team that will play a six game schedule.
"I'm asking the upper classmen to be role models for our freshmen," said Jones. "But the girls' attitudes are great and I think there are a lot of possibilities this season."
Also part of those possibilities are Kayla Raderstorf, Lindsay Thomas and Traci Sanders who all started 28 games and Lindsay Thomas started 27 for the Knights. Others with varsity starting experience are Erica Conrad, Olivia Kumpf and Britaney Searing.
The Knights will kick off the season with a home-and-away series beginning with a home JV/Varsity game with Owen Valley on Tuesday, April 4 at 5 p.m.