There are a number of ways a high school softball player can introduce herself to varsity competition.
Sidney Beier’s method was producing 17 base hits in her first 25 at-bats.
Beier, Edinburgh’s starting catcher, finished her freshman campaign with 15 doubles and a searing .529 batting average. She also ranked second among Lancers players in stolen bases with 13 while helping lead the program to its fourth Class A sectional championship in seven seasons.
“Sidney caught every game for us,” said Edinburgh coach Steve Clark, whose squad finished 12-11 after losing to Hauser at regional. “Experience-wise, I thought she would be able to handle it because she’s played a lot of travel softball.
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“Sidney has a good bat and fit in with the rest of the lineup pretty well.”
Among the challenges Beier faces is living up to the reputation she established for herself last spring.
Pitching around her won’t be easy.
A quartet of players contributing to the Lancers’ .322 team batting average of a year ago return — seniors Bailey Woodall (.423) and Bri Howard (.359), junior Vanessa McManaway (.350) and sophomore Emma Wade (.289).
Beier began her softball career at age 8 as a shortstop for her father Keith’s recreation league team. In time, she moved behind the plate, and she’s been there ever since.
“I like catching because I can see the whole field. The hardest part is blocking pitches, but I love all of it,” Beier said. “As a team we should do well and hopefully repeat what we did last season.
“The whole team, the way we worked on hitting, that really helped out.”
Beier swatted three or more base hits in six of Edinburgh’s games last season; she drove in at least two runs on seven occasions.
A member of coach Amy Schilling’s girls basketball program in the winter, the 5-foot-7 Beier, a starting forward, averaged 8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.7 steals last season.
Center Grove Trojans
Coach: Russ Milligan
Last season: 24-4; lost to Franklin Central in Franklin Central Sectional championship game
Who’s back: P/1B Nicole Abrams, Sr.; OF Hanna Burris, OF, Sr.; P/1B Abby Herbst, Sr.; OF Maddie Keeley, Sr.; C/3B Jordyn Rudd, Jr.
Who’s gone: 2B Mandy Dallas, P/1B Taylor Hammill, C Maddie London, SS Delaney Turner
Key newcomers: SS Piper Belden, So.; 2B Tyler LeMasters, Jr., OF Clara Anderson, Jr.
Outlook: Milligan says he has a strong nucleus with the team’s top pitcher, Herbst, returning as well as the two top hitters in Herbst (.513, 35 RBIs) and Rudd (.479, 7 HR 38 RBIs). “Couple that with several very talented underclassmen, and we hope to surprise people when they are expecting us to have a rebuilding year,” Milligan said. Rudd, who has made a verbal commitment to Northwestern, started at third base last year but will move to catcher.
Coach: Steve Clark
Last season: 12-11; lost to Hauser in Edinburgh Regional
Who’s back: C Sidney Beier, So.; P/OF Madisyn Clark, Jr.; Mary Franklin, Jr.; OF MaKenzie Hill, Jr.; SS Bri Howard, Sr.; IF Vanessa McManaway, Jr.; IF Emma Wade, So.; OF OF/P Bailey Woodall, Sr.
Who’s gone: Kayla Beier, Kayleigh Littiken, Megan Rooks
Key newcomers: IF Paige Burton, Fr.; P/IF Grace Joiner, So.
Outlook: Steve Clark said the team’s strength should be a solid pitching staff, with two experienced arms returning. Defensively, the Lancers have the majority of their girls back in the key positions. “We had seen a vast improvement on the hitting aspect last season and hope to continue to grow that,” Clark said.
Franklin Grizzly Cubs
Coach: Lisa Whitlow-Hill
Last season: 7-19; lost to Center Grove in Franklin Central Sectional semifinal
Who’s back: P/C/1B/OF Katie Crump, Sr., IF/OF Hannah Hartman, Sr.; P Rilee King, Jr.; OF Krystal Scott, Sr.
Who’s gone: Molly Barger, Baleigh Potter, Shelby Taylor
Key newcomers: Haylee Mathena, Bostyn Parkhurst, Emma Rutan
Outlook: Whitlow-Hill said she has a strong group of underclassmen who are capable of contributing at a high level. “We have a handful of freshmen that could get significant playing time, depending on how they adjust to high school ball,” she said. With strong senior leadership, the coach expects the Grizzly Cubs should win more games this year. “I am really looking forward to surprising some teams and seeing how hard this team will work to reach our lofty goals,” Whitlow-Hill said.
Coach: Greg Norwood
Last season: 15-11; lost to Center Grove in first round of Franklin Central Sectional
Who’s back: 2B Ryan Bauer, Sr.; OF Olivia Daugherty, Jr.; P Karlee Denham, Jr.; 3B Rachel Derf, Jr.; SS Allison Hayes, So.; C Alexis Rees, So.; P Olivia Rugenstein, Jr.; 1B Emily Struewing, Sr.
Who’s gone: Megan Overton, Paige Wilson
Key newcomers: C/IF Dominique Proctor, Fr.; P Tori Stout, Fr.
Outlook: The Woodmen will miss top pitcher/hitter Overton (Boston College), who won more than 50 games in her career. Norwood said the plan is to have multiple girls pitch. The most experienced returnee is Bauer, who will be a four-year starter. “Our upside is we’re very young,” Norwood said. “It’s all about effort. We’re just looking for the kids to give everything they’ve got.”
Greenwood Christian Cougars
Coach: Bill Hardwick
Last season: 6-7; lost to Edinburgh in Edinburgh Sectional semifinal
Who’s back: C Grace Apgar, Jr.; P Bethany Dailey, Jr.; P Marissa Jent, So.; Emma Manship, Sr.; 3B Tara Pennycuff, Sr., Faith Shilket, Sr.; Avery Shingleton, So.; Isabel Solano, Sr.; C Sarah Stephenson, So.; P Amelia Walters Jr.
Who’s gone: Delaney Kent, Brianna Lawrence, Isabella Roby
Key newcomers: 1B Morgan Haynes Fr.; Kayla Kovacs, Fr.; Zoie Manship, Fr.; Alexis Mead, Fr.
Outlook: Hardwick said he expects the offense to be improved, as the hitting has been the same in preseason as it was in midseason last year. “These 14 girls have bonded together in a way I haven’t seen in a while,” Hardwick said. “That usually results in success on and off the field. Scoring will not be a problem we have in 2017.”
Indian Creek Braves
Coach: Gary Mitchell
Last season: 9-14; lost to Greencastle in Indian Creek Sectional semifinal
Who’s back: P Brittany Dugan, Sr.; 1B/P Dori Knight, Sr.; SS Rachel Kyle, Jr; 3B/C Morgan Palmer, Sr.;Cailin Pickett, 3B-C, Jr.; P/IF/OF Liz Rossiter, So.; OF Kasey Wilhoit, Jr.; P/OF Kaitlyn Williams, So.
Who’s gone: Kiersten Brester, Zoey Gatton, Sydney Williams
Key newcomers: P/2B Jacqui Button, Fr.; C/OF Micheala Denny, Fr.; OF Kayla Lemmon, Fr.; 2B Sydney Logsdon, Jr.
Outlook: Knight returns as a top pitcher after missing all of last season with a knee injury. “Everybody has figured out what their roles are and I’m happy with how they’re getting along,” Mitchell said. “They all seem to complement each other well. If we hit like I think we can, I think we’ll be a hard team to beat.”
Coach: Katie Mitchell
Last season: 4-23; lost to Franklin in first round of Franklin Central Sectional
Who’s back: OF/C Lindsey Boltz, OF/C, Jr.; P Shelby Gibson, So.; 2B Harley Hill, Sr.; SS/C Maddy Margraf, Jr.; 3B Skye Scott, Sr.; OF Mel Stuck, Sr.
Who’s gone: Alyssa McClung, Danielle Munn, Sarah Shipe, Hayley Smith, Hannah Upchurch
Key newcomers: 1B Shelby Caruthers, Fr.; 2B Kaleigh Hopkins, Fr.; OF/P Reese Lott, Fr.; OF Emily McClung, So.; C Abby Nacio, Fr.; Allie Watson SS, Fr.
Outlook: Margraf, who batted .435 last spring, will provide leadership at the catcher spot, and Mitchell says that outfield speed should be a strength. “I think we’ll be more consistent offensively and we’ll be tougher defensively,” she said. Gibson should benefit from her pitching experience last season.
Capsules compiled by Mark Ambrogi