Players come and go, but the goal never changes: win the state championship.
That is the only objective for the Center Grove High School softball team — including this season.
The Trojans enter the 2016 campaign the defending Class 4A state champions and intend to exit it the same way.
“We have all the main pieces,” said Center Grove coach Russ Milligan, whose team returns six starters and nine letterwinners from last year’s 29-2 team.
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Four of the returning starters are seniors. They are second baseman Mandy Dallas, shortstop Delainey Turner, catcher Maddie London and pitcher Taylor Hammill.
Dallas and Turner are three-year starters. London is a steady presence behind the plate. And Hammill was an occasional starter and key reliever who stood out in the semistate and state championship games.
They are joined by returning starters Maddie Keeley and Jordyn Rudd. Keeley is a junior outfielder. Rudd is a sophomore utility player and is the top returning hitter.
Rudd hit .516 last year with 33 RBIs, 10 doubles and three home runs.
Center Grove’s other returning letterwinners are junior catcher Jessica Lupinetti and junior outfielders Lexi Gaffney and Hanna Burris.
The Trojans are the winners of an IHSAA record six state championships and are confident of adding a seventh as the March 29 season-opener against Whiteland approaches.
“Everybody certainly enjoys beating us, but I don’t think it’s added pressure,” Milligan said. “I think we already put that pressure on ourselves.
“We just feel really good right now.”
With a wealth of returning starters, the Lancers appear poised to do more than simply improve on last year’s 12-11 record.They seem positioned for a lengthy postseason run.Edinburgh returns three of its starting infielders, both starting pitchers and all three of its outfielders.
“We have a solid pair of returning pitchers with an improved defense behind them,” Lancers coach Stephen Clark said. “Offensively, we should be able to up some more runs, as well.”
The returning starters are senior Kayla Beier, first base; senior Kayli Littiken, third base; senior Megan Rooks, outfield/catcher; junior Bri Howard, shortstop; junior Bailey Woodall, pitcher/outfield; sophomore Vanessa McManaway, first/second base; and sophomore Madisyn Clark, pitcher/outfielder.
“We have the bulk core of girls returning,” Stephen Clark said. “(We) should be able to improve on last year’s record, win a few more of the close games and remain competitive throughout the year.”
Edinburgh opens the season March 31 against visiting Seymour.
Despite the return of six starters and nine total letterwinners, the Grizzly Cubs are a comparatively young team.Half of the returning starters are sophomores. Three of the returning letterwinners also are sophomores.But no matter.
Second-year coach Lisa Whitlow-Hill is confident the Cubs combine enough talent and experience to better last year’s 7-16 record and make noise in the postseason.
“We have the potential to do well this season and plan to improve on our record from last year,” Whitlow-Hill said. “We are a young team, but we have very good upperclassmen leadership.”
The returning starters are senior Shelby Taylor, center field; senior Baleigh Potter, first base; junior Katie Crump, catcher; sophomore Sydney Logsdon, shortstop; sophomore Rilee King, pitcher; and sophomore Lindsey Abercrombie, second base.
Returning letterwinners are: senior Molly Barger, outfield; junior Hannah Hartman, utility; and junior Krystal Scott, catcher/outfield.
“We should have a strong defense and a much deeper pitching staff this year,” Whitlow-Hill said. “Depending on how quickly the younger players can adjust to the the level of competition of high school softball, we should be able to give some of the perennial powers a run for their money.”
Franklin opens the season April 5 at Decatur Central.
If experience counts, and coach Greg Norwood is banking it does, the Woodmen should have much to look forward to this spring.Greenwood returns five starters and nine total letterwinners from last year’s 17-9 team.Of the returners, three were first-team members of the Daily Journal All-County Team.
Leading way is senior Megan Overton, a Boston College recruit who is one of the state’s most versatile players. The Woodmen’s No. 1 pitcher and top slugger, she was 14-3 last season, hit .418 and stole 37 bases.
Overton plays shortstop when she isn’t pitching.
The other returning starters are senior pitcher Paige Wilson, junior second baseman Ryan Bauer and sophomore outfielders Sammi Decastro and Olivia Daugherty. Bauer and Castro were first-team All-County selections last season.
The other returning letterwinners are junior pitcher Olivia Rugenstein, junior first baseman Emily Struewing, junior outfielder Alaina LaBrance and sophomore utility player Rachel Derf.
“Our outlook is the same as every year. We expect to compete the best we can and put forth maximum effort,” Norwood said. “We are always looking for the next player to step up and fill a role.
“If we do that, everything else will fall in place.”
Greenwood opens the season April 5 at Mooresville.
GREENWOOD CHRISTIAN ACADEMY
The Cougars are entering their third season as a varsity program. But you’d never know it by results.Greenwood Christian enjoyed winning records in its first two seasons, including a 9-8 mark last spring.With a host of returning starters and letterwinners, the Cougars seem positioned for another winning campaign.
Top returners include senior pitcher Isabella Roby, senior first baseman Delanie Kent, senior shortstop Brianna Lawrence, junior third baseman Tara Pennycuff and catcher Grace Agpar.
“This is an amazing group of girls,” Cougars coach Dan Carmichael said. “What I really like about this group is not just the talent but the family atmosphere they bring as a team.
“I truly feel we have a tremendous amount of leadership, quality players (and) strength in so many positions.”
Had all gone according to plan, the Braves would have returned seven starters from last year’s 12-10 team.Unfortunately, the plan fell through when junior Dori Knight, the No. 1 pitcher, suffered a season-ending ACL injury a few days before the start of practice.But even with Knight’s loss, Braves coach Gary Mitchell is upbeat.
“Definitely, we’re still going to be very good,” he said. “The key is hitting. It’s just a matter of putting some runs across the plate.”
Indian Creek’s returning starters are senior catcher Sydney Williams, senior outfielder Zoey Gatton, junior outfielder Kiersten Brester, junior first base/second baseman Macy Ashley, junior third baseman Morgan Palmer and junior pitcher Brittany Dugan, who will now handle most of the pitching chores.
“We were looking for that to be a 1-2 punch,” Mitchell said. “We’re going to have to go in a different direction now.”
Indian Creek opens the season April 4 against visiting Greenwood.
No team in the county returns more starters than the Warriors.They have eight in all.Little wonder coach Katie Mitchell likes their chances of significantly improving on last year’s 9-16 record.
“Defensively, our chemistry is solid due to so many starters returning, Mitchell said. “We have versatile players which will allow us to easily move people around, if needed.
“Offensively, we have a wide range of abilities, allowing us to mix it up with power hitting and short-game strategy.”
Whiteland’s returning starters are senior pitcher Danielle Munn, senior outfielder Hannah Upchurch, senior first baseman Hayley Smith, senior infielder Sarah Shipe, senior outfielder Alyssa McClung, junior outfielder Mel Stuck, junior second baseman Harley Hill and senior junior shortstop Skye Scott.
The additional returning letterwinners are junior pitcher Katie Parrish and sophomore catcher Madison Margraf.
Whiteland opens the season March 29 at Center Grove.