Times Sports Editor
The Clay City softball team has plenty of new faces on hand for the new season and has its sights set on making some postseason noise after an uncharacteristic down year in 2011.
Jason Sinders steps into the head coaching stop as former coach Roger Rhodes moves into an assistant role along with Rachel McCleary, a former Terre Haute South and Indiana State Sycamore player.
Fans of the Eels have plenty of reason for optimism that the 2012 edition will improve upon last year's 8-14 mark that ended with a sectional championship loss to North Central (Farmersburg).
Clay City will be anchored by three returning all-conference players at key positions along with a total of six seniors that played significant roles last season.
"Abby Reed is a four-year starter at the same position. She's started at shortstop since she was a freshman. She's one of our captains. We're looking for a big year out of her. She's had three nice years," Sinders said. "We're hoping that we can get some hardware for her last year."
Reed won't be alone in playing a key role up the middle for the Eels as Clay City also returns Madison Booe, Reed's teammate on the three-time sectional champion basketball team.
"Madison Booe is our catcher and she's a very powerful hitter and has a lot of speed," Sinders said of the junior. "I'd like for her to be a little more vocal, but we're working on that."
Booe started off the season in style with a 4-for-4 game against Rockville that included a home run in her No. 2 spot in the order. However, senior Shaya Stevenson set the plate for her at the top of the lineup, reaching base three times.
The offense had some struggles last year, but Sinders feels that this year's team should improve upon that facet of the game.
"Top to bottom in our lineup, we're going to have more hitters. I think we're a little more athletic," Sinders said. "We're a little more softball savvy. When you've got options and you've got numbers, players that can run and do their jobs, it makes things a lot easier. Winning cures a lot of things."
The five-girl senior class should help with winning more games as Sinders mentioned several other key players that will factor into Clay City's success.
"We've got another senior back at first base in Allie Miller. She's been sick, but we're hoping her strength and her voice over there will help us out also. Ali Souder is another senior and she's a leftfielder. She's been a four-year starter," Sinders said. "She's our third captain. Hopefully they'll all keep playing hard and bring some hardware back at the end of the season.
"Kendall Fowler is an extremely hard worker. She's a great voice and she'll do everything that we ask her to do," Sinders added.
Pitching is another key component of a softball team's success and the Eels return sophomore Whitney Jeffers, who pitched all 22 games for Clay City last season. Her improvement in the offseason might be one of the bigger aspects according to Sinders.
"I think Whitney has gotten a little bit faster. Her off speed has gotten better and she's more relaxed. She's another one that we've worked really hard on being more vocal," Sinders said. "We talk about (Madison) Booe a lot, but (Jeffers) is a big part of what we do."
The Eels will also boast 11 freshmen on the roster, a uniquely large class that Sinders believes will reap some immediate rewards for the Eels.
"They offer a lot of options for one thing," Sinders said in regard to the large freshmen class. "Some girls are going to hit some nights and won't on others. We'll have different options putting girls in and hopefully the younger ones can push the older ones. These kids are only human when they are in spots. Hopefully we can put it all together in the end, work hard and have some fun."
Four freshmen got the initial starting nod in the opening win over Rockville.
"Third baseman Maria Walton is a freshman. She's very consistent with her bat. I'm thinking by the end of the year she might be pushing to be one of the RBI leaders. She's got a great glove and has played a lot of ball," Sinders said.
"Emmie Kittle started at second base and is tremendously quick from the left side. She can slap, bunt and hit with power. She's just going to continue to get better. Rachel Cottrell is another freshman. She has hit the ball so well the last three weeks of practice. We had no choice but to put her in the lineup," Sinders joked. "We're looking for a lot out of her and she's also a catcher."
Clay City also boasts the returning power of sophomore Alex Wolfe, who will be called upon in important situations and gives the Eels an experienced bat off the bench.
"Sophomore Alex Wolfe is going to be a big part of what we do. She's a strong kid and I look for her to be a big hitter," Sinders predicted. "I think it's going to be a pinch-hitting situation a lot, but we're going to call on her in some tough situations with runners on base.
Sinders also mentioned another pair of freshmen that saw action in the opening contest versus the Rox.
"Samantha Dyer and Logan Ellinger have both split time at first base and both hit the ball well. That's going to be their position. They just have to continue working hard."
Clay City returns to action on the road at North Knox April 5 beginning at 5 p.m.
2012 Clay City softball schedule
|Thur. April 5||at North Knox||5 p.m.|
|Fri. April 6||at Cloverdale||4:30 p.m.|
|Sat. April 7||at Barr Reeve Invite||9 a.m.|
|Mon. April 9||at Shakamak||4:30 p.m.|
|Tue. April 10||vs. Northview||4:30 p.m.|
|Thur. April 12||at Sullivan||4:30 p.m.|
|Sat. April 14||at N. Vermillion||11 a.m.|
|Mon. April 16||vs. WRV||4:30 p.m.|
|Tue. April 17||vs. Riverton Parke||5 p.m.|
|Thur. April 19||at T.H. North||5 p.m.|
|Sat. April 21||vs. Turkey Run||11 a.m.|
|Mon. April 23||vs. North Central||4:30 p.m.|
|Tue. April 24||vs. Linton||4:30 p.m.|
|Thur. April 26||at Owen Valley||4:30 p.m.|
|Mon. April 30||vs. Union (Dugger)||4:30 p.m.|
|Tue. May 1||vs. South Putnam||4:30 p.m.|
|Thur. May 3||at N. Daviess||5 p.m.|
|Mon. May 7||vs. T.H. South||5 p.m.|
|Thur. May 10||at Eminence||5 p.m.|
|Mon. May 14||at Bloomfield||4:30 p.m.|
|Tue. May 15||vs. West Vigo||5 p.m.|
|Thur. May 17||at Eastern Greene||4:30 p.m.|
|Mon. May 21||Sectional||TBA|