High School Sports

High school softball preview: Lafayette, Dunbar looking strong

Lafayette's Jamie Vescio pitches in the first inning against Dunbar during the district tournament at LCA in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, May 22, 2012.
Lafayette's Jamie Vescio pitches in the first inning against Dunbar during the district tournament at LCA in Lexington, Ky., Tuesday, May 22, 2012. Lexington Herald-Leader

With the 2013 softball season underway, Lafayette leads Lexington teams with a No. 14 ranking in the state.

Three new coaches are on the city scene: George Beard at Henry Clay, Stephon Brown at Lexington Catholic and Jenny Dalton Hill at Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Beard steps up after two years as an assistant. Brown has been in coaching for 15 years.

Then, there's Hill.

At the University of Arizona, she won three College World Series, was a three-time All-America second baseman and a two-time Academic All-American. She was NCAA Division I Player of the Year and College World Series MVP in 1996, also taking Pac-10 Player of the Year and the Pac-10 Triple Crown.

At the end of her four years, she held NCAA career records for RBI, runs, walks, slugging percentage and RBI-per-game. She held NCAA single-season records for RBI and walks.

She served as a volunteer assistant coach at Arizona (1997) and also as an assistant at Kentucky (1998-99).

At Dunbar, she will be coaching daughter Brooke, a seventh-grader.

Bryan Station

Coach: Brad White (fifth year)

Last year: 9-19 (lost to Henry Clay in first round of district tournament)

Top players: Devon Deleon (Sr. SS); Rebecca Hall (Jr. RHP); Bailey Conley (6th 2B); Shelby Mclean (8th 1B/3B); Markiara Smith (Fr. RHP/1B).

Outlook: There could be some struggles this season due to the youth on the roster, but the experience gained could bode well for future seasons. White thinks that positive attitudes and good work ethic will add up to a successful season as the program continues to build.

Defenders schedule

April 8 —Dunbar, 6; 9—Garrard Co., 6; 15—at Scott Co., 6; 17—at Lafayette, 6; 18—at Henry Clay, 7:30; 22—Henry Clay, 7:30; 23—Tates Creek, 7:30; 24—Scott Co., 6; 30—Lafayette, 5:30.

May 6—at Nicholas Co., 6; 7—Paris, 5:30; 15—at Dunbar, 6; 16—at Lexington Christian, 5:30.

Henry Clay

Coach: George Beard (first year)

Last year: 18-18-1 (lost to Madison Central in first round of region tournament)

Top players: Riley Stokes (Sr. CF); Brittany Sears (Sr. 2B); Emily Miller (Fr. C); Sarah Parsons (Fr. SS); Beth Ann Hamilton (So. RHP/SS); Anna Hensley (Fr. RHP).

Outlook: Beard, an assistant coach the past two seasons, says the Devils' goal "is to grow together and to reach their ultimate goal, and their ultimate goal is to get to the State Tournament. And I think that's feasible." Henry Clay has been ripping the ball at a .395 clip over its first six games. Stokes, a five-tool player who has committed to Morehead State, leads the attack. Sears and Parsons also hit for average. One thing Beard would like to see improve throughout the season is communication on the field — "We need to talk better." His roster includes five seniors, five freshmen, two juniors and two sophomores.

Blue Devils schedule

April 9—Louisville Christian, 7:30; 11—at Scott Co., 6; 13—at Johnson Central, 11 a.m., and vs. Shelby Valley, 12:30 p.m.; 16—at Lafayette, 7:30; 17—Franklin Co., 7:30; 18—Bryan Station, 7:30; 22—at Bryan Station, 7:30; 23—Dunbar, 7:30; 25—at Woodford Co., 6; 27—at Whitley Co., 11 a.m., and at Corbin, 1 p.m.; 30—at Tates Creek, 7:30.

May 2—Scott Co., 7:30; 4—Boone Co., 2; 6—Lafayette, 6; 7—at Dunbar, 7:30; 9—at Lexington Catholic, 6; 11—Ashland Blazer, 2, and Harrison Co., 5:30; 18—Clark Co., TBA.


Coach: Shane Weaver (second year)

Last year: 27-8 (lost to Dunbar in second round of district tournament)

Top players: Caroline Perkins (So. OF); Jamie Vescio (Sr. LHP/OF); Katelyn Mitchel (Jr. C); Sarah Wiggins (Jr. OF); Abbie Bowling (Sr. 2B/SS); Sarah Cooley (Jr. 1B).

Outlook: Although two Division I players were lost to graduation, and their combined 13 HR and 60 RBI, Lafayette returns eight starters with a good deal of experience. Perkins, Vescio, Mitchell and Wiggins all batted .319 or better. Vescio stole 15 bases in 16 attempts and scored 34 runs. Perkins, Mitchell, Wiggins, Bowling and Cooley all had 20 or more RBI. A variety of speed, power and aggressive baserunning, along with timely small ball, will be the key to success on offense, Weaver says. Continuing to work on learning the game and reacting to situations with good decisions are goals, he adds, along with having a batting order where all nine can help, and keeping unearned runs off the scoreboard on defense. "If we find the right mix of focus and fun, it will be a successful year," Weaver said. "I like the individual parts we have. They want to learn and get better. If we put together our best in all areas, we can be as good as anyone in the state, but we have to have all parts together. We need leadership from our older players to foster this coming together to compete at our highest level."

Generals schedule

March 30—at South Warren, noon (11 a.m. CST).

April 1-5—at Jacksonville, Fla., tournament; 9—at Lexington Catholic, 5:30; 11—Tates Creek, 6; 13—vs. Pulaski Co., and Southern at Somerset, 1 and 2:30; 15—Montgomery Co., 5:30; 16—Henry Clay, 6; 17—Bryan Station, 6; 19-20—Five-Star General Invitational, tba; 23—Lexington Catholic, 5:30; 25—at Dunbar, 6; 29—at Lexington Christian, 5:30; 30—at Bryan Station, 6.

May 4—vs. Male and Daviess Co., tba; 7—at Tates Creek, 6; 11—vs. Johnson Central and Fern Creek, tba; 14—at Bourbon Co., 6.

Lexington Catholic

Coach: Stephon Brown (first year)

Last year: 15-14 (lost to Tates Creek in second round of district tournament)

Top players: Sophie Robic (So. SS); Hannah Martin (Jr. C); Sarah Landry (Sr. 1B); Ashley Baker (Sr. RHP); Jessica Ringlein (Sr. 3B); Ellen Mitchell (Sr. OF); Molly Dawson (Sr. RHP).

Outlook: The Lady Knights have a solid core of seven seniors to provide leadership. A weakness, though, is that the team overall is on the young side. Lexington Catholic has a new coach in Brown, a vociferous leader who brings 15 years of experience, and who plans to focus on being defensive-minded and aggressive on offense. Baker and Dawson will lead the team as pitchers, and are helping to groom eighth-grade pitcher/second baseman Cece Wittry. The only junior on the team, Martin, will take a lead role as catcher. Martin has a smartness behind the plate and hits for average. Other key batters are Landry (.429), Ringlein (.417) and senior left-fielder Jennifer Carlino (.381). Brown says one of his greatest challenges is to instill his players with more self-confidence: "Once they believe in themselves, they will be capable of overcoming any obstacle."

Knights schedule

March 30—Somerset, 6.

April 9—Lafayette, 5:30; 11—Dunbar, 6; 12—vs. South Oldham at Franklin Co., 6; 13—vs. Heath at Franklin Co., 10:30 a.m., and vs. TBA, 1:30 p.m.; 16—at Lexington Christian, 5:30; 23—at Lafayette, 5:30; 24—at Franklin Co., 5:30; 26—at East Jessamine, 5:30, and vs. Marion Co., 9:30; 27—vs. TBA at East Jessamine.

May 2—at Tates Creek, 6; 7—Collins, 6; 8—at Dunbar, 6; 9—Henry Clay, 6; 14—Harrison Co., 6; 16—at Western Hills, 5:30; 17—at Nicholas Co., 6.

Lexington Christian

Coach: Gina Covington (third year)

Last year: 6-23 (lost to Dunbar in first round of district tournament)

Top players: Alex Byers (P/3B); Emily Orrender (SS/OF); Melissa Myers (1B/OF); Kaleigh Covington (C/CF); Jordan Dishong (OF); Hannah James (P/2B); Elise Shewmaker (P/2B); Charis Hill (LF/3B); Hanna Dawahare (RF/2B); Jordan Romain (OF); Payton Rodgers (OF/C)

Outlook: A still very young team is getting stronger, faster and smarter about the game, according to Covington, who sees the gap continuing to close with most other programs in the city. Covington says her team, which includes third-year players in Byers, Orrender, Myers and Covington, worked hard in the off-season. That has paid off with early season wins over Paris and Bryan Station, teams that the Eagles had not beaten in the past two years.

Eagles schedule

April 6—vs. Villa Madonna, 10:15 a.m., Silver Grove, 12:45 p.m., and Holmes, 3:15, at Holmes; 9—Paris, 5:30; 11—at Washington Co., 6; 12—Frankfort, 5:30; 16—Lexington Catholic, 5:30; 17—Burgin, 6; 18—at Model, 6; 19—Frankfort, 5:30; 22—Tates Creek, 7:30; 25—at Eminence, 5:30; 26—Lincoln Co., 6; 27—Covington Latin, noon; 29—Lafayette, 5:30; 30—at Nicholas Co., 5:30.

May 2—Washington Co., 6; 3—Portland Christian, 5:30; 6—at Tates Creek, 7:30; 8—at Berea, 6; 9—at Dunbar, 5:30; 10—Model, 6; 13—at Burgin, 5:30; 16—Bryan Station, 5:30; 17—at Frankfort, 5:30.

Paul Laurence Dunbar

Coach: Jenny Dalton Hill (first year)

Last year: 20-17-1 (lost to Franklin County in first round of region tournament)

Top players: Stephanie Harvey (So, 2B); Kaylie Zander (Jr, RHP/CF); Shelby Shanks (So, RHP/3B); Kaitlyn Elias (Sr, OF); Emily Bryan (Jr, OF); Rachael Ferguson (JR, C); Riley Brown (8th, SS) Jessica Foxworth (Fr, 1B).

Outlook: The Bulldogs return a team that didn't have any seniors last year and won the 43rd District Tournament. The strength of this team is a batting order that has power with six starters having homered, along with the speed and skill to play "small ball" when needed. Returning offensive leaders are Elias (.387), Shanks (.367), Bryan (.356) and Harvey (.333). Dunbar returns three pitchers with experience in Zander, Shanks and senior Emily Norton, who have started more than 100 games and thrown more than 600 innings, led by Zander with 51 starts and 320 innings. The defense can be strong, but needs to overcome inconsistencies that come with position changes behind a three-pitcher rotation.

Bulldogs schedule

April 4—Meade Co., 3; 5—vs. Shelby Co. at Woodford Co., noon; 8—at Bryan Station, 6; 11—at Lexington Catholic, 6; 12—at Madison Southern, tba; 17—at Montgomery Co., 6; 18—Nelson Co., 6; 20—vs. Barren Co. at Greenwood, 12:30; 23—at Henry Clay, 7:30; 25—Lafayette, 6; 29—Eastern, 5:30.

May 1—Tates Creek, 7:30; 2—at Lafayette, 6; 4—vs. East Jessamine, 2:45, and vs. Christian Co., 4:30; 7—Henry Clay, 7:30; 8—Lexington Catholic, 6; 9—Lexington Christian, 5:30; 11—Grant Co., 11 a.m.; 15—Bryan Station, 6; 16—at Woodford Co., 6.

Tates Creek

Coach: John Groft (second year)

Last year: 17-18 (lost to Woodford County in first round of region tournament)

Top players: Finley Yuttayong (Sr. RHP/SS); Kenzi Groft (Jr. RHP/1B); Bailey Skaggs (RHP/3B); Katie Fitzpatick (So. 2B/SS); Cressa Fryrear (Sr. OF); Anna Mutters (Jr. C); Lisa Henning (Sr. OF); Kendall Fields (8th IF).

Outlook: John Groft says Tates Creek has dramatically improved the last two years. The pitching staff is more experienced with Transylvania signee Yuttayong (74 strikeouts over 116 innings, with two shutouts), Groft (10-7, 88 strikeouts, 115 innings, two shutouts), Skaggs, RH Bree Garner and RH Hannah Ross. The coach says his defense put in extra work during the off-season and has become more consistent. Offensive depth starts with leadoff batter Yuttayong (.314 with team-bests 14 doubles and 26 runs), cleanup hitter Groft (.345 with team-high 40 hits, 32 RBI) and Skaggs (team-leading .388, 7 HR, .750 slugging, .451 on-base). Senior leadership comes from Fryrear, Yuttayong, Henning, Mary Mullins, Leanne Dobias and Carly Cerrie.

Commodores schedule

March 31-April 4—at Ft. Walton Beach, Fla., tournament.

April 11—at Lafayette, 7:30; 13—at Boyle Co., 9 a.m., vs. Bell Co., noon, and vs. Mercer Co., 1:30 p.m.; 15—Woodford Co., 7:30; 22—at Lexington Christian, 7:30; 23—at Bryan Station, 7:30; 25—Nicholas Co., 7:30; 30—Henry Clay, 7:30.

May 1—at Dunbar, 7:30; 2—Lexington Catholic, 6; 3—Garrard Co., 6:30; 4—Boyd Co., 10:30 a.m., and Highlands, 3:45 p.m.; 6—Lexington Christian, 7:30; 7—Lafayette, 7:30; 9—at Western Hills, 7:30; 10—at Bourbon Co., 7:15; 11—vs. Fleming Co. at Bourbon Co., 11:30 a.m.; 15—North Laurel, 7:30; 16—East Jessamine, 7:30; 18—at Manual, 11:45 a.m., and vs. John Hardin, 3:15 p.m.

State softball poll

Kentucky Softball Coaches Association poll for March 27:

1. Greenwood (11) 396

2. Owensboro Catholic (5) 347

3. Ballard (1) 325

4. Mercy 309

5. Scott Co. (2) 295

6. North Laurel 294

7. Bowling Green 246

8. Lone Oak (1) 232

9. Boyle Co. 210

10. Reidland 198

11. Christian Co. (1) 197

12. Oldham Co. 164

13. Bullitt East 144

14. Lafayette 134

14. Male 134

16. Marshall Co. 115

17. Ryle 104

18. Holy Cross 74

19. Central Hardin 52

19. Livingston Central 52

21. PRP 48

22. South Laurel 39

23. Meade Co. 35

24. Warren East 29

25. Woodford Co. 25

Others receiving votes: Franklin Co. 24, Eastern 24, Harrison Co. 21, Green Co. 17, Johnson Central 17, Collins 14, Paul Laurence Dunbar 13, Henderson Co. 9, Sacred Heart 9, Edmonson Co. 8, Madison Central 8, Heath 7, Butler Co. 7, Glasgow 5, Allen Co. 4, Butler 4, Montgomery Co. 4, Madisonville 3, Bourbon Co. 2, Apollo 2, Boyd Co. 1, Union Co. 1, South Oldham 1, East Jessamine 1, Walton-Verona 1, Manual 1.