Times Sports Editor
Continuity is often a valuable commodity when it comes to high school sports and the Clay City Eels hope to be able to cash in this season.
The Eels return all but two players from last year's 15-12 squad that was ranked 14th in Class A before being knocked off by sectional champion Shakamak in the semifinal, 1-0 in nine innings. Clay City defeated eighth-ranked North Central to face the Lakers, so the Eels know that the talent is in place this year for a potential return to the regional like the 2008 squad.
While the Eels will miss second baseman and pitcher, Tasha Collenbaugh and Stephanie Granger, Clay City boasts plenty of returning experience, which should ease any possible growing pains.
Perhaps most important to the Eels hopes this year is senior pitcher, Shelby Targett, a four-year starter.
Targett carried a pretty heavy load last year, getting the bulk of the starts, but if the early season is any indication, she'll be counted on even more this year, throwing all 14 innings of the Eels first two games against Rockville and West Vigo. Both teams have the potential to have successful seasons with the Vikings holding off the Eels 3-2 and Clay City beating 14th-ranked Rockville, 8-6 on Thursday.
Clay City got plenty of valuable experience last year for a lineup that included five freshmen in the starting lineup, this year's group puts the speedy Targett in the leadoff spot followed by rightfielder, Shaya Stevenson and catcher Madison Booe.
Those three batters sparked the offense against the Rox, going a combined seven-for-12 with four RBI and three extra base hits.
In the outfield, Karen Treadway and Ali Souder have split time in leftfield with Allie Miller patrolling centerfield.
Clay City's bench also has some returnees as Carli Jackson, Michaela Riggs and either Souder or Treadway will be the regular pinchrunners and/or pinch-hitters.
The Eels' sectional will remain strong as Shakamak returns plenty from the sectional championship team from last year. The Lakers however, will have a new coach as Brent Anderson takes over the reigns after stints as an assistant with Shakamak and as a softball coach at North Central and Eastern Greene.
Sophomore pitcher, Mikayla Crane, anchors the squad and was the winning pitcher in the sectional title. She'll be joined by plenty of familiar faces as Casey Fougerousse will be one of the top outfielders in the area and the Lakers' versatility will be pivotal as several team members will also participate in track as well.
White River Valley is perhaps the youngest team in the area with an 18-player roster that includes 15 freshmen. However, the Wolverines do return four-year starter, Alicia Tally at shortstop and senior catcher, Tayler Kail, who has missed the last two years with knee injuries.
North Central should again be very tough after losing just two games last season. The T-Birds return starting pitcher Ashli Scott, who also is one of their top hitters as well as Adara Crooks and Maria Drake.
The Eels continue their season with a four-game road swing beginning with Thursday's trip to North Knox at 5 p.m.