Times Sports Editor
The Northview softball program will be in the same boat as some other Wabash Valley area teams as graduation losses have brought on a youth movement.
The Knights graduated a large part of their offensive stats from last year and it will be difficult to immediately replace the significant experience that a couple of four-year starters brought to the 2008 squad.
The cupboard is far from bare however and coach Bethany Jones was quick to point out that her younger classes have plenty of talent.
"We are young this year with seven potential starters being freshman and sophomores," Jones said. "With a lot of talent, the under classmen will be making many contributions to the success of the team this year. And I don't see any reasons why they shouldn't be able to with gained experience throughout the season.
"This year, we are young, but very talented," added Jones. With experience, this young team should succeed. In each practice, we are focusing on situations, hitting, and mental toughness."
The Knights won't have to worry about experience in the circle as Shelby Colson returns to lead the team.
At the plate, Colson hit .361 with a pair of home runs and 19 RBIs.
Jones knows that with a limited number of upperclassmen on the roster, Colson will have many roles on this squad.
"Her role this year is leadership, on defense and
offense," Jones said. "With her signing early to further her career at Glenville State College, she has been working extremely hard on different pitches and changing her speed."
Emily Phillips is another of the Knights' experienced returning players and she'll anchor the team at shortstop and could see some pitching time as well.
The junior hit .260 last season with 15 runs scored and 11 RBIs for the Knights and Jones mentioned that Phillips will also be looked to for guidance.
"Emily is extremely driven and industrious at every practice," Joens said. "Her work ethic is one that also rubs off on her teammates. If Emily can stay mentally tough as a middle infielder and lead off hitter, she should have a great season."
Kirstin Kimball comes off a breakout basketball season and is the team's only other senior. She adds experience to the outfield rotation for the Knights. She hit .333 in limited at-bats last year, but played in 20 games for the Knights.
"We are looking for her to step up and be the leader in the outfield this year. As we continue to work with her bat, Kirstin has a lot of potential to have a
good senior year," Jones said.
One area of uncertainty is catcher where sophomore Jessica LaTourette will miss the season after undergoing rotator cuff surgery in February. She hit .329 as a freshman and her bat and defense will be hard to replace.
"Not having her this year will be a loss for the team both defensively and offensively," Jones added. "Jess gained a lot of experience last year as a freshman. She is and will be working very hard all year to get herself back in shape for next year.
Lauren Webster and Raven Enders could each see time behind the plate for the Knights with Conrad playing first and pitching at times. Enders is also a second base option for the Knights after getting 37 at-bats last year.
"Raven Enders saw a lot of action last year. She was
solid and persistent on defense last year. So far that has carried over," Jones said. "As a slapper, Raven should bring a lot of quickness on the bases for us this year."
Joining Kimball in the outfield will be a group that includes Kaylee Clark, Ashlee Ball and Nicole Nelson.
At third base will be one of the Knights talented freshmen, Kylie McKee.
While the Knights aren't likely to overpower teams as they have in previous years, Jones feels that this year's edition can win by doing the little things.
"Consistency will win us games this year," Jones said. "If our pitchers can keep the balling moving and the girls behind them make the plays, we will win games. Look for a lot of quickness on the bases. We won't be a power hitting team, but if we are consistent with our bats and smart on the bases, I see a lot of potential in this year's team."
Northview hits the road for the season opener at Martinsville on April 7.