A new era is upon the Creston softball team as it opens the 2013 season at Corning on Monday.
Gone are three seniors who took Creston softball to new heights, winning four-consecutive Hawkeye 10 Conference championships.
But head coach Mike McCabe remains excited for the 2013 season as the Panthers feature a number of versatile players fighting for spots in the lineup.
“It’s time to move on, because that’s kind of been our theme with this group from probably the time we turned in uniforms last summer through the winter,” he said. “We feel we’ve got a good group of kids coming back, a nice mix. We’ve got some experience, but kind of young experience, and some younger kids that are going to be nice players. We’ve got a couple of upperclassmen that, hopefully, it’s their time to contribute.”
The Panthers feature just two upperclassmen in senior Mackenzie Andreasen and junior Audrey Fyock.
McCabe said Andreasen will get an opportunity to play first base this year, an opportunity he feels she has earned.
“She’s a good leader and is one that gets the kids chattering when she’s out on the field, and we like that,” he said. “She’s someone who has earned that opportunity.”
Fyock, meanwhile, will likely see time at second base after having played that position on the junior varsity team last year.
“Audrey’s had a real good preseason,” McCabe said. “Had a good winter for us, so I think an opportunity will be there for her.”
For the most part, however, the Panther lineup will be fluid throughout the early part of the season.
McCabe said that with players having other commitments with spring sports, it’s been tough get any consistency in practices to try people out in different positions with a full roster there.
But, McCabe’s roster is filled with a wealth of young, versatile talent.
“If you’ve seen any of our practices, all of our drills have been just that,” he said. “Everybody has done everything, all positions. I think we have some ball players, a good number of them. That’s good.”
One of the most versatile players on the roster is sophomore Haylee LaMasters.
McCabe said LaMasters, who led the Hawkeye 10 Conference in hitting during conference games last year with a .517 average, can play just about any position.
LaMasters, along with sophomore Brenna Baker, figure to share the pitching duties early in the season.
“Whether one of them emerges as a clear cut No. 1, I guess we’ll see,” McCabe said. “Haylee has worked very hard in the winter. I’ve seen a lot of improvement. Brenna has worked hard as well, she’s just also been very busy with other sports. We also have Taylor Briley and Josie Sickels that throw. I think we’ll be fine there.”
Sophomore Natalie Mostek, who hit .289 during conference games last year, figures to see a bulk of the action behind the plate again this year.
“Natalie is one that is kind of a real sleeper for us,” McCabe said. “I feel real confident with her behind the plate, handling Haylee. And I think she’s going to take a real step up offensively for us.”
Briley, who earned honorable mention all-conference as an eighth grader, can play in the outfield, but could also fill the whole left at shortstop by her older sister Katlin.
McCabe mentioned Nicole Haley, Hannah Hagle, Jami and Josie Sickels, Kiana Stuart, Madison Hance and Alyssa Higgins as other players who could find their way into the lineup this year, although at what spot is yet to be determined.
Even though the Panthers lost three outstanding seniors from last year’s team and two seniors who did not come out this year, McCabe said his team can still compete for its fifth straight Hawkeye 10 championship.
Roadblocks along the way could be Lewis Central, which returns everyone from its 21-15 team a year ago, Harlan, Glenwood and Denison-Schleswig.
Across the conference, seven starting pitchers return to their teams from last year, which McCabe said gives teams from the middle and lower part of the standings a year ago a chance to make a big improvement.
“I guess I kind of see LC, Glenwood, Denison Harlan and I’m not going to short our kids,” McCabe said. “’They’ve been through it. I think we’ll compete, too. They’re still the four-time defending conference champs, and their goal is to compete until we’re mathematically eliminated.”
(* — returning letterwinner)
Seniors — Mackenzie Andreasen*.
Juniors — Audrey Fyock.
Sophomores — Brenna Baker*, Hannah Hagle, Nicole Haley, Haylee LaMasters*, Natalie Mostek*, Kiana Stuart.
Freshmen — Taylor Briley*, Madison Hance, Alyssa Higgins, Shelby Palser, Jami Sickels, Josie Sickels*.
May 20 — at Corning, 7 p.m.
May 23 — vs. Winterset, 7:30 p.m.
May 24 — at Clarke, 7:30 p.m.
May 28 — at Lewis Central (doubleheader), 5:30 p.m.
May 29 — at Norwalk, 7:30 p.m.
June 1 — at Atlantic Tournament, TBD
June 4 — at Harlan (doubleheader), 5:30 p.m.
June 6 — at Red Oak, 7 p.m.
June 7-8 — Creston Classic, TBD
June 10 — vs. Clarinda, 7 p.m.
June 11 — vs. Kuemper Catholic (doubleheader), 5:30 p.m.
June 15 — at Oskaloosa Tournament, TBD
June 17 — at Shenandoah, 7 p.m.
June 18 — at Denison-Schleswig (doubleheader), 5:30 p.m.
June 22 — at Cedar Rapids Jefferson, TBD
June 24 — vs. Red Oak, 7 p.m.
June 25 — vs. Atlantic (doubleheader), 5:30 p.m.
June 27 — at Clarinda, 7 p.m.
June 28 — at DC-G Classic, TBD
July 1 — at Glenwood, 5:30
July 5 — vs. Shenandoah, 7 p.m.
July 9 — vs. Council Bluffs Abraham Lincoln, 7 p.m.
July 11 — Regionals
July 13 — Regional semifinal
July 16 — Regional final
July 22-26 — State tournament