Last year, eight of the 14 Henlopen Conference softball teams were ranked in Delaware, and every indication points to a similar circumstance coming this season. The Indians made the state tournament last season but couldn’t get past Sussex Tech in the quarterfinals. This year’s team remains relatively intact (seven of nine returning starters) but will be without two of their most important players: All-Conference catcher Ravin Robinson and shortstop Jessica Spencer.
“Shortstop is the most important and most highly contested position,” Head Coach Mark Browne said. “As important as Ravin was, shortstop is big. Pitching and defense are the key in softball.”
Sophomore Haylee Brennan and freshman Lindsay McCabe currently are in a two-way race for the shortstop position. Browne mentioned that both have the ability to play shortstop, as well as other positions, and ultimately competition will better his team.
“Good healthy competition is a nice luxury to have,” Browne said. “We have two catchers pushing each other, two of three (players) at third base, and we’re hoping to use our pitchers in different roles.”
Senior Kathryn Riley, sophomore Brittney Steele and freshman Sara Tyre fill out Browne’s quiverful of pitchers, but he mentioned that there might be times that he’ll throw in a pitcher to offset their opponents’ strengths.
“Depending on what type of team we’re playing, it may depend on who we pitch,” Browne explained. “If we’re playing a fastball hitting team, we may go with Brittney, who changes speeds.”
Steele gave up two earned runs in the bottom of the first inning against Milford in a Cape Henlopen play-day last weekend but got into the groove and registered four of her five strikeouts in her remaining two innings, including striking out the side on swinging strikes in the bottom of the third.
Sophomore Jill Gamble has done a good job catching thus far and Browne noted that she made a nice defensive throw in the play-day. It’s her job to lose, he said.
“We’ll see if she’s up to the challenge. Ravin was one of the best players to come out of this program and there are some things that she could do that nobody else could. But we don’t want her (Jill) to live in the past. We want her to be her own player and leave her own mark,” Browne said.
Currently, third baseman Sara Powell is also competing for the catcher position, which gives Browne flexibility within his lineup. If Powell wins the catcher spot, then Sara Tyre and Brennan would be the top choices to fill third base.
“If we could ever keep Haylee totally healthy, I think she’ll open some eyes,” said Browne. “She hit .300 for us as a designated hitter last year.”
Offensively, the Lady Indians shouldn’t miss a beat. Robinson’s departure leaves open the No. 3 slot in the batting order but senior outfielders Kayla Warrington and Jennifer Tyre can certainly hit for power.
Browne noted that sophomores Abi Buchler and Jordan Warrington have improved drastically and both may be a possibility as the team’s leadoff batter.
“Both of them worked hard this off-season. They had great composure as freshmen and that can only help them progress,” Browne said.
The Lady Indians will open up the regular season at St. Marks on March 23.