Sports

Lexington softball preview: Young talent lines rosters

It's been five years since a Lexington school won the 11th Region softball championship.

For the past four, it's been top teams from various surrounding counties such as Franklin, Scott and Woodford.

Those teams, especially No. 8 Franklin County and No. 9 Scott County, would like to see that trend continue, but there are plenty of schools in Lexington with young talent that would love to make their way back to the state softball tournament in Owensboro.

The last time a city school advanced to the state tournament was in 2005 with Paul Laurence Dunbar.

The No. 19 Bulldogs, who are breaking in two middle- school pitchers, are a city school contender as are No. 17 Lafayette and No. 21 Lexington Catholic.

The Generals, who advanced in 2004, return a large portion of their talent from last season, including their top hitters and pitcher Cassidy Taylor.

Most of the city is counting on young players to have an impact early and make them contenders come tournament time.

Bryan Station

Coach: Brad White

Last year: 8-22 (lost to Madison Central in first round of region tournament)

Top players: Stephanie Hamilton (sr., p); Constance Hughes (sr., of); Tia Blakeman (sr., of); Jordan Ellis (sr., 3b); Megan Hoovler (so., ss); Suzanne Hall (so., p/of).

Outlook: Station may have surprised some by advancing to the region tournament last year. They'd like to make it back there this year behind several key returning players like Ellis (.310 batting average), Hughes (.300), Hoovler (.285) and Hall (.285). Last season White saw the team evolve from a handful of individuals to a team that plays for one another. Mental toughness and a positive outlook will be key to the season, White said. Hamilton and Hall are back on the mound and Blakeman, the team's defensive stalwart, will anchor the outfield. White looks for several new faces to add to Station's depth and strength, including outfielder Dallas Smith and infielders Candice Jackson and Hayli Huddleston.

Defenders Schedule

Fri. — Lafayette, 7:30;

April 6 — at Henry Clay, 5:30; 7—at Bourbon Co., 7:30; 9—at Paul Dunbar, 5:30; 13—at Tates Creek, 5:30; 14—Henry Clay, 5:30; 15—at Mason Co., 6; 20—Sayre, 6; 22—at Scott Co., 5:30; 23—Mercer Co., 5:30 and LaRue Co., 8:30; 28—Paul Dunbar, 5:30; 29—Scott Co., 5:30;

May 4—at Lexington Christian 5:30; 6—Berea 5:30; 11—Clark Co., 6; 12—Bourbon Co., 5:30; 14—at Paris, 5:30; 18—at Lafayette, 7:30; 19—Western Hills, 5:30; 20—Williamstown, 5:30; 21—at Frankfort, 5:30.

Henry Clay

Coach: Mark Reese

Last year: 17-12 (lost to Bryan Station in the first round of district tournament)

Top players: Sarah Mathis (so., p); Abby Patrick (sr., of); Tamara McGlothin (sr., 3b); Hannah Simpson (jr., ss); Shandra Williams (so., 1b/p)

Outlook: The deck looked stacked against the Devils this season. But they started the season on a positive note, with a win over a top 20 team, and they look to continue that trend despite not having a home field this season. Henry Clay's softball field is still being renovated after complications. The Devils have just two seniors after graduating two seniors and losing two starters to transfers. But Reese, who has three freshman starters, is optimistic about the future. Patrick, one of the two seniors, is an accomplished hitter. Simpson anchors the defense and is a strong leader. Williams, who also will see some time at pitcher, is a power hitter and could be a dangerous weapon. Mathis returns to the mound for the Devils, who had a couple of impressive wins over top 10 opponents last season and look for more this season.

Blue Devils Schedule

Sat. — Turf Round Robin at Lexington Catholic vs. Boyd Co., 1 and Ryle, 3:30;

April 1-3—Lady Warrior Classic at Murfreesboro, Tenn., TBA; 5—at East Jessamine, 5:30; 6—Bryan Station, 5:30; 8—at Sayre, 5:30; 12—Clark Co., 5:15; 13—at Scott Co., 5:30; 14—at Bryan Station, 5:30; 19—Anderson Co., 6; 21—at Lafayette, 5:30; 22—at Tates Creek, 5:30; 26—at Rockcastle Co., 5:30; 27—at Paul Dunbar, 5:30; 28—Franklin Co., 5:30; 29—at Tates Creek, 5:30;

May 3—Lafayette, 7:30; 6—at Clark Co., 5:15; 7—East Jessamine, 5:30; 10—Western Hills, 6; 11—at Montgomery Co., 5:30; 13—Estill Co., 6; 14—Madison Southern, 5:30; 17—Grant Co., 5:30; 18—Model, 5:30; 20—Rockcastle Co., 5:30.

Lafayette

Coach: Dana Taylor

Last year: 25-9 (lost to Franklin County in the first round of region tournament)

Top players: Heather Oakley (sr., cf); Cassidy Taylor (jr., p/3b); Alyssa Oakley (jr., 1b); Lauren Mitchell (jr., ss); Lauren Brockman (jr., rf); Brittany Sims (so., 2b)

Outlook: The Generals have all of the makings of a state contender and are ranked No. 17 in the coaches' pre-season poll. They return a bulk of last year's starters including pitching and hitting leader Cassidy Taylor (1.09 ERA). The junior also led the Generals in home runs and hit .398, scoring a team-high 38 runs. She also batted in 39 teammates. Oakley returns as the team's top hitter (.433 batting average). She had 45 hits last season. Mitchell hit .411 last year and notched 46 hits. The Generals did lose their starting catcher and a top pitcher in Kylee Johnson, so they will have to get used to a tighter new rotation and keep their pitchers healthy, Coach Taylor said. A difficult schedule may test the Generals, but it could prepare them well for the post-season.

Generals Schedule

Fri. — at Bryan Station, 7:30; 31—at Anderson Co., 6;

April 1-3—at Western Hills Invitational, TBA; 6—at Tates Creek, 7:30; 9-10—Eastman Invitational at Dobyns Bennett (Tenn.), TBA; 12—Paul Dunbar, 7:30; 14—Madison Southern, 7:30; 15—at North Laurel, 6; at South Laurel, 8; 16-17—Capital City Showcase at Franklin Co., TBA; 19—Woodford Co., 7:30; 21—Henry Clay, 5:30; 23-24—Kentucky 5 Star Classic at North Laurel, TBA; 27—Tates Creek, 7:30; 28—at Madison Central, 6; 30-May 1—Lafayette Derby Classic, TBA;

May 3—at Henry Clay, 7:30; 5—at Franklin Co., 5:30; 11—at Paul Dunbar, 5:30; 17—Estill Co., 7:30; 18—Bryan Station, 7:30; 20—West Jessamine, 7:30.

Lexington Catholic

Coach: Bob Griggs

Last year: 15-20 (lost to Scott County in the first round of region tournament)

Top players: Kelsey Hambrick (sr., p/3b); Hannah Simms (sr., c); Rachel Hollembaek (sr., 2b); Jill Maronde (so., ss); Lindsay Griggs (jr., of); Beth Mueller (jr., of); Katie Justice (sr., 1b)Outlook: Coach Griggs has some of the regular concerns of most coaches this early in the season, things like finding ways to score with runners on and making routine defensive plays, but he has the luxury of a large crop of returning players to try to do the little things well. He also has four seniors who are providing good leadership, Griggs said. The Knights, ranked No. 21 in the pre-season poll, return two of their top three hitters in Lindsay Griggs and Maronde. Hambrick, who did slightly less than half of the pitching last season, returns and is healthy this season. Catholic also has some young pitchers that could see action. They have defensive help all around from stalwarts like Hollembaek, Maronde and Simms. Coach Griggs is optimistic about the season. "We're fairly well balanced, we've got some good hitters in the lineup and defensively we can be pretty strong." he said.

Knights Schedule

Fri.-Sat. — Turf Round Robin, TBA;

April 6 — Grant Co., 5:30; 7—at East Jessamine, 5:30; 9—vs. West Carter, 7, at Rowan Co., 9; 10—at Lawrence Co., TBA; 12—Shelby Co., 6; 14 —at Estill Co., 5:30; 16-17—Capital City Showcase at Franklin Co., TBA; 20—at Scott Co., 5:30; 22—Clark Co., 5:30; 26—Boyle Co., 6; 27—at Harrison Co., 5:45; 30-May 1—Sports Warehouse Classic at Owensboro Catholic, TBA;

May 4—Western Hills, 6; 5—at West Jessamine, 5:30; 7-8—Lady Knights Memorial Tournament, TBA; 11—Franklin Co., 5:45; 13—at Madison Southern, 5:30; 18—Nicholas Co., 7:15; 20—at Jeffersontown, 6; 22—Allen Co.-Scottsville, 10 a.m. and Lawrence Co., 11:45 a.m.

Lexington Christian

Coach: Mike Haake

Last year: 2-15 (lost to Lafayette in the first round of district tournament)

Top players: Cassandra Byrd (sr., ss); Shelby Slusher (sr., c); Sarah Miller (sr., p); Emily Yocum (sr., of); Briana Dawson (jr., 1b); Kristin Rinehart (fr., 3b)

Outlook: It hasn't been the easiest of seasons for the Eagles the past few, but the return of all nine starters from last year has Haake optimistic about the future. "We are hoping to continue to build on the improvements this team showed last year," he said. Haake expects key leadership from longtime starters Byrd, Slusher, and Miller. Byrd's athleticism and speed causes problems for defenses. Slusher is a powerful hitter. Miller will do most of the pitching for the Eagles. Haake looks for big things from Dawson, who led the team in runs batted in last year. Yocum anchors the outfield. There are several middle-school players like Briana Shell, Mary Beth Steger and Abigail James who are expected to make an impact.

Eagles Schedule

Fri. — Casey Co., 6;

April 5—vs. Frankfort at All "A" Classic, 5:30; 6—at Sayre, 5; 15—Menifee Co., 6, 7:30; 19 —at Bath Co., 5:30; 20—Nicholas Co., 5:30; 22—Sayre, 5:30; 23-24—Lady Eagles Classic, TBA; 26—at Berea, 6;

May 1—Mountain Telephone Invitational Classic, TBA; 3—Burgin, 6; 4—Bryan Station, 5:30; 6—at Frankfort, 5:30; 7—at Williamstown, 5:30; 8—Frankfort Classic at Lakeview Park, TBA; 14-15—Lady Eagles Classic, TBA; 17—Paris, 5:30 and 7:30; 18—West Jessamine, 5:30; 20—at Tates Creek, 5:30; 21—Williamstown, 5:30; 22—Evangel Christian, noon and vs. Waggener, 2.

Paul Dunbar

Coach: Mike Wainscott

Last year: 18-9 (lost to Lexington Catholic in the first round of district tournament)

Top players: Corie Roberts (sr., c); Bailey Skaggs (8th, ss); Maggie Shell (jr. 1b)

Outlook: The Bulldogs, ranked No. 19 in pre-season polls, have many of the key parts; they just need them to all come together. With the graduation of Brandi Ore, they are relying heavily on two middle-school pitchers in eighth-grader Kaylie Zander and seventh-grader Shelby Shanks. "That's going to be the big adjustment," Wainscott said. "By end of the season, we're hoping they can make us competitive" with help from junior Kristy Leininger. The coach said the team's new pitching coach will be a big help in bringing the young players along. Roberts will be a key leader for the Dogs this season. The four-year starter returns as last year's top hitter. Shell, a three-year starter, also returns and is a key defensive cog for a Bulldog defense that may surprise some. "Defensively we can play with anyone, it's just a matter of scoring enough runs and holding the other team down to one or two runs," the coach said.

Bulldogs' Schedule

April 5 —at Bracken Co., 6; 8—at Tates Creek, 5:30; 9—Bryan Station, 5:30; 12—at Lafayette, 7:30; 15—at Harrison Co., 6; 20—Tates Creek, 5:30; 21—Franklin Co., 5:30; 22—Berea, 5:30; 23-24—at Boyd Co. Spring Classic, TBA; 26—at Mercer Co., 5:30; 27—Henry Clay, 5:30; 28—at Bryan Station, 5:30;

May 3 — at Nelson Co., 5:30; 4—Estill Co., 6; 7-8—Bulldog Classic, TBA; 10—Madison Southern, 5:30; 11—Lafayette, 5:30; 14-15—at Boyle Co. Invitational, TBA; 18—Clark Co., 5:15; 20—at Model, 5:30; 22—at Greenwood, 2 vs. Daviess Co., noon.

Sayre

Coach: Cindy Eason

Last year: 3-9

Top players: Carrie Brown (sr., inf); Emily Colclough (sr., inf); Eliana Greissworth (sr., of); Alex Gibson (sr., inf); Elizabeth Pagen (sr., p); Kelsey Ryan (sr., of)

Outlook: The Spartans try to remain competitive and win more games than they did the season before despite limited numbers. They do return seven seniors from last season's team which "gives us experience and some strong leadership possibilities," Eason said. The coach looks for freshmen like Susanna White and Preslee Farmer to add depth. Even against a limited schedule, Sayre needs to have more consistent pitching. Keeping a positive outlook will be key this season, Eason said.

Spartans Schedule

April 6 — Lexington Christian, 5; 8—Henry Clay, 5:30; 14—Nicholas Co., 5:30; 15—at Collegiate, 5:30; 17—St. Patrick, 11 a.m.; 19—Frankfort, 5:30; 20—at Bryan Station, 6; 22—at Lexington Christian, 5:30; 26—Menifee Co., 6; 30—Portland Christian, 5:30;

May 3—at Scott Co., 5:30; 4—at Frankfort, 5:30; 6—Shawnee, 5:30; 11—at Menifee Co., 5:30; 13—at Burgin, 6; 18—at Portland Christian, 5; 21—Collegiate, 5:30.

Tates Creek

Coach: Jeff Shearer

Last year: 3-29 (lost to Lafayette in the first round of district tournament)

Top players: Ashley Block (sr., cf); Megan Banahan (jr., 3b/ss); Carleigh Adams (so., c); Finley Yuttayong (fr., p)

Outlook: Tates Creek has been young and inexperienced the past couple of seasons. The Commodores are still young — with six freshman who will have to contribute significantly — but they do have more experience on their side. Several of the freshmen were starters last year, and one was a key role player. Two other youngsters — Dawnie Bryant and Gabby Bryant — transferred in. Even with a young team, consistency will be the key if the Commodores want to surprise some teams come post-season. Consistency also starts at the top with upperclassmen like Block in the outfield and Banahan in the infield.

Commodores Schedule

Thurs.—at Model, 5:30;

April 6 — Lafayette, 7:30; 8—Paul Dunbar, 5:30; 9-10—Tates Creek Classic, TBA; 13—Bryan Station, 5:30; 20—at Paul Dunbar, 5:30; 22—Henry Clay, 5:30; 23-24—at Boyd Co. Spring Classic, TBA; 27—at Lafayette, 7:30; 29—Henry Clay, 5:30; 30-May 1—Harrison Co. McDonald's Classic, TBA;

May 4—Clark Co., 5:30; 6—at Woodford Co., 6; 7-8—Robin Monroe Classic at Fern Creek and Pleasure Ridge Park, TBA; 11—Western Hills, 5:30; 13—at Rowan Co., 5:30; 14-15—Tates Creek Closeout, TBA; 18—Franklin Co., 5:30; 20—Lexington Christian, 5:30; 21—vs. Estill Co. 7:15 and Montgomery Co., 9.

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