New softball season arrives, Roncalli No. 1 in the nation; CG rated 4A No. 2; Southside teams seek improvement
and Steve Page, Correspondent
Welcome to the 2023 Southside softball season.
Roncalli, winner of two consecutive state championships, entered the new season as the nation’s No. 1 team and the pre-season 4A No. 1 team with Center Grove No. 2.
The Royals are coming off a massive record-breaking 33-0 season with pitcher Keagan Rothrock, the Gatorade Player of the Year, returning to the circle. Roncalli’s softball team extended its state record streak to 50 games without a loss until the Royals’ third game of the day Saturday in Terre Haute, losing to Avon, 7-5. It was the Royals’ first loss since May 8, 2021 against Franklin Central in the Marion County championship game. Earlier Saturday, the Royals defeated North Central (Farmersburg) and Castle.
Senior pitcher Keagan Rothrock had calf surgery earlier this year and returned to the circle on April 4 at Terre Haute South. She threw a perfect game, striking out 12 batters. The Royals are at home Thursday at 6 p.m. against Tri-West. In a home game where there are no lights, the Royals and 4A No. 10 Columbus North played April 2 to a 3-3 tie in eight innings before darkness set in. All three Bulldog runs were unearned.
In a show of concern following the tornado that struck Whiteland, Franklin Central coach Kathy Stricker presented a $1,000 donation from the Flashes to the Whiteland softball team before their game at FC Thursday evening.
Two Whiteland players, Halle Nett and Kiley Sullivan, lived near the Mohr warehouse property that was heavily damaged by the March 31 tornado. The softball team cooked hot dogs and burgers and distributed food to residents and volunteers on April 2.
Here’s the team-by-team outlook with last season’s won-lost record and stats:
BEECH GROVE (3A, 12-14) – Assistant coach Drew Moore took over in the absence of head coach Kacy Ferrell who gave birth to a baby girl last week. The Hornets have the luxury of nine returning players after losing only one to graduation. This season’s sophomores and juniors are bigger, stronger, and quicker.
Junior Malone Moore leads the way at the plate (.567, 38 hits, 27 RBI) and on the mound (7-1, 0.99 ERA). A strong sophomore class features returnees, catcher Lilliana Jansen (.532, 41 hits, 22 RBI), pitcher/first baseman Carmen Emaiston (.379, 25 hits, 29 RBI), and shortstop Mylee Boling (.286, 24 runs scored).
Classmate outfielder Neveah Lyte also starts.
The solid junior class also features centerfielder Kylee Robinson (.339, 19 hits) and third baseman Holly Garrett (.324, 22 hits). Starting lineup includes junior Lutheran transfer Aubree Bailey at second and junior Amira Mills in left field.
The Hornets are solid at the plate and on the mound. With improved defense and aggressive base running, Beech Grove can emerge as an Indiana Crossroads and sectional threat.
Beech Grove trainer Carl Palma tapes junior Kylee Robinson’s ankle before recent home game.
All-State junior pitcher Riley Henson, Indiana State commit, was 11-5, 1.97 ERA last year. All-State junior outfielder Hannah Haberstroh (.523, 41 runs, 45 hits), Ohio State commit, is Trojans leadoff batter. Senior Payton Simansky (.307, 23 hits), Columbia recruit, returns behind the plate. Junior Riley Janda (.412, 35 hits, 27 RBI), Louisville commit, at second and junior Payton Shimansky (.307, 23 hits), Washburn commit, at short anchor the infield.
The Trojans also have depth on the mound with newcomers Aiyana Keown and Riley Fuhr. Junior Kynadee Warner, Evansville commit, is solid in the outfield. Underclassmen Sydney Herrmann, Hayden Baird, Brynn Meyer, and Erica Burris are anxious to have standout years.
“This is going to be a great year,” said Coleman, who coached CG to a 4A state title in her first year at the helm in 2019. “This group has learned so much over the years, and they are ready to leave it on the field.”
CH MANUAL (3A) – Eagles regroup and rebuild with new coach Natalie Frieteg. Team to rebuild from scratch. League matchup against visiting Irvington Prep Tuesday, May 2.
DECATUR CENTRAL (4A, 16-9) – Veteran coach Don Ivey and the Hawks face the season without a pitcher with significant varsity experience. With the graduation of Kylie Eads (Southern Indiana), DC has Kylie Vaseloff, 22 innings, Hailey Cruz, three innings, and freshman Gracie Boggs.
While the pitching improves, DC’s seasoned returnees will need to produce: senior catcher Laci Boggs (.530, 44 hits, 27 RBI), outfielder Ella Phillips (.316, 24 hits, 21 RBI), and third baseman Jazlynn Stewart (.390, 32 hits, 14 stolen bases).
The Hawks will be counting on Vaseloff, seniors Bekah Cruz at shortstop and outfielder Riley Leverington, and sophomore designated hitter Hannah Harper.
Ivey said, “We are looking to return to a 20-plus win season and compete for a (Mid-State) conference title and a sectional title behind some strong hitting and defense.”
Laci Boggs, a Decatur Central senior, follows through on the swing that produced a two-run single in the second inning of Tuesday’s Mid-State Conference opener with visiting Perry Meridian.
The Flashes pitching staff includes senior Ella Clouse (1-7), junior Mallory Stinson and freshman Kiley Renick. Clouse, who can play first or third, is strong at the plate (.400, 32 hits). The Flashes have some clout at the plate with senior utility player Kasey Hickle (.333, 24 hits), junior first baseman Jenna Thompson (.314, 21 hits), and catcher Kalee Roberts (.302, 19 HRs). Senior outfielders Maddie Smith and vocal leader Regan Harvey also start. Classmate Madelyn Kammer at third is a vocal leader, too.
Sophomores in the early-season starting lineup include center fielder Abbie Kiersten, shortstop Jadyn Tinsley, third baseman Kaylie Grayson, and Adelaide Hubbard at second.
“This is a good group of kids,” Stricker observed. “They’re young, they fight, they’re competitive, they work hard, and I think they’re going to be better than most people think. This is a very good group athletically. We have speed, strength and good hitters.”
Stricker continued, “We have to get over the (early season) hump. We have good talent and they’re trying to work together.”
GREENWOOD (4A, 8-15) – Co-coach Natalie Raker takes over the helm after Greg Norwood stepped away from the box.
The Woodmen return with their top two pitchers and hitters, junior Haley Hankenhoff (.377, 26 hits, 19 RBI; 4-6, 7.04 ERA) and Taylor Dick (.358, 24 hits, 21 RBI; 4-8, 5.20 ERA).
Key returnees are seniors Sophie Markowicz (.412, 28 hits), at second and Nikki Wheatley behind the plate, junior catcher Avery Kraeszig, and sophomore shortstop Haylie Hendricks. Newcomers are junior third baseman Emma Chism and sophomore outfielder Kinsey Clark.
Several young players are battling for starting spots, especially in the outfield.
Woodmen won only two Mid-State games last year. Greenwood expects to have improved fielding, but it may take a while for the bats come around.
GREENWOOD CHRISTIAN (1A, 4-8) – Brad Keller moves up from assistant coach to head coach. Cougars are short on experience and pitching, so hitting becomes a big key to any success this season.
Key players include seniors Brooklyn Collins and Sophie Keller; juniors Naomi Anna, Sophie Doyle, Summer Huberts, and Sierra Paramore; and sophomore Elle Schake.
Collins, Doyle and Keller make up the mound corps.
Junior Sydney Waldron and freshmen Lillian Keller and Sarah Robertson are new to varsity competition.
Keller wants to see the Cougars become competitive again in their class and advance from there.
LUTHERAN (1A, 11-15) – Defending sectional champion and tradition-rich Lutheran is optimistic about this season. Veteran coach Kevin Schmidt lost only two seniors to graduation and returns with two seniors, 10 juniors, four sophomores, and one freshman. Schmidt expects the Saints to show increased maturity, physicality and mentally.
“This group is a year older, more confident, and has a tighter bond than last year,” Schmidt said. “Our goal is to improve our defense by cutting our errors in half, and our power has improved. Our entire team is stronger because of growth and lifting.”
The Saints are led by game-changing sophomore center fielder Mystic Means (.469, 38 hits, 44 stolen bases), junior catcher Kayla Burns (.333, 26 hits, 19 RBI), and senior/designated player Ellie DeChristopher (.351, 26 hits). Mound chores go to sophomore Brooklyn Barger, who has a wide variety of pitches, and junior dropball pitcher Maddie Geminden.
Key players also include: junior outfielders Grace King and Caitlyn Brooks, freshman Layla Miller at third, and Zoe Sondag or Barger and Geminden when not pitching. Senior Cora Dean returns to the outfield.
The Saints hit zero home runs last year, but Schmidt expects that to change. They have above average speed, especially when Means is on base.
The junior class is motivated by losing to Hauser in last year’s regional after capturing the program’s 21st sectional trophy.
Perry Meridian senior Kaylen Garland strides into a pitch during the Falcons’ Mid-State Conference game at Decatur Central.
PERRY MERIDIAN (4A, 12-16)
Coach Megan Eder has had a busy season already with her marriage during spring break. Mary “Alex” Thomas took over the temporary helm and provided the Falcons’ outlook.
“Last year, we won more games (12) than the year before (6),” she said. “This year finishing above .500 is our goal – we want a winning season.”
At the plate, the Falcons are led by senior Paige McPhearson (.500, 32 RBI, 5 home runs, .858 slugging percentage). Thomas expects freshmen Adrianna Chesser and Macy Stroud to have an immediate impact at the plate.
Senior Kaylen Garland (8-7, 5.13 ERA) will be the primary starter, with junior Lacy Richardson (53-5) and freshman Kennedy Simpson in reserve.
To win more games, Thomas said, “We’ve got to outhit our mistakes; get more hits, get more runners on base.”
RONCALLI (4A, 33-0) – Two-peat 4A state champion returns with 13 players from last year’s roster, including six starters from the title game. The starters, back for a try at a three-peat are: pitcher Keagan Rothrock (.523, 56 hits, 55 RBI, 14 home runs; 28-0, 382 strikeouts), center fielder Lyla Blackwell (.523, 53 runs, 57 hits, 33 stolen bases), second baseman Carley Keller (.326, 29 hits), right fielder Abbey Hofmann (.521, 49 hits, 55 RBI, 10 home runs), shortstop Lauren Marsicek (.388, 31 hits), and catcher Ann Marie Meek (.471).
Coach David Lauck has some holes to fill with younger players, mainly one outfield spot and at third base.
“What we lost is hard to fill in any year,” said Lauck during a practice break. “We lost a lot of experience with some extremely talented players. We’re trying to do the best we can to put the right girls in the right position for success.”
Varsity returnees also include Emma Fegan, Abby Willis, Anna Dressman, Eva Hurrle, Natalie Summers, and Carley Keller.
The outfield is deep with Hofmann and Blackwell and healthy competition among several players in leftfield.
Eva Hurrle, Addy Poe and Natalie Summers are now sophomores being counted upon. Newcomers include juniors Madeline Annee, and Avery and Kendra Clark, up from JV.
“The freshmen were in the seventh grade when we won our first state championship, so I’m sure this is a bit overwhelming at times,” Lauck said. “Our seniors have been through a lot, and they have answered the bell every time.”
Record-setting Roncalli pitcher Keagan Rothrock and catcher Ann Marie Meek return as battery mates for the second consecutive season for the Royals.
Roncalli seniors, from left, outfielder Abbey Hofmann, infielders Anna Dressman and Abby Willis, and outfielder Lyla Blackwell are all smiles for the new season.
SOUTHPORT (4A, 6-17) The Cardinals are out to improve upon last year’s six wins. Coach Scott Montgomery returns five seniors and a sophomore who are expected to lead. The seniors are pitcher-shortstop Nevaeh Pender (.347, 25 hits), third baseman Haley Kiefner (.364, 24 hits) fleet center fielder Marianna Martinez, and catcher Sami Trahan (.237). The sophomore is right fielder Addy Mosley.
Promising newcomers are senior outfielder Kailey Warfield and freshmen Ady Stansbury, Malia Breedlove and Ally Kiefner. Stansbury and Kiefner are pitchers.
“We have had a great off-season and are looking forward to improving our record from last year,” Montgomery said. “We have high expectations this season.”
WHITELAND (4A, 24-3) – Sectional champions return with new coach and new look with a younger team.
Harley Roller, a 2010 Indiana All-Star catcher and Whiteland graduate, returns to the Warriors as their coach after being an assistant at Southern University and head coach at Albany State in Georgia. Ace pitcher Debbie Hill and catcher Haley Wilkerson are among four seniors who graduated.
Returning seniors include shortstop Emma Piercy, first baseman Adrianne Campbell, second baseman Halle Nett, and utility player Emma Davis. Key juniors are outfielders Josslyn Harbert and Ava Smith, catcher Maddie Myers, and third baseman Emma Davis.
“We need to find our identity with this group; we’ll figure it out,” coach Roller said. “We have some great foundational pieces here for a bright future for this program.”
Sophomore pitcher Kiley Sullivan, up from No. 2 last year, and hurlers Nett and Piercy will gain needed experience this season.
Roller likes her team’s fight. Warriors need some seasoning, but should jell in time for the playoffs.
Key Whiteland players include, from left, juniors, outfielder Josslyn Harbert and catcher Maddie Myers, and sophomore pitcher Kiley Sullivan.