Herald-Whig

Illinois prep softball preview capsules

Central's Kennady Marlow makes a catch as Illini West's Lara Pence runs to third during a game at Camp Point Central on Thursday, Apr. 5, 2018. | H-W Photo/Jake Shane
Jake Shane 1|
Posted: Mar. 8, 2019 12:01 am Updated: Mar. 9, 2019 1:31 am

Brown County

Coach: David Woodruff (62-29 at Brown County, fourth season)

2018 record: 20-11 (8-0 Western Illinois Valley Conference)

Returning starters: UT Allison Prather, Soph.; 2B Bre Gooding, Sr.; P/IF/OF Claire Markert, Soph.; IF Kacy Dunlap, Jr.

Other returners: None listed.

New faces: IF Cortni Law, Fr.; CF/P Grace Groesch, Fr.; OF Savannah Rogers, Fr.; P/OF/IF Makenna Post, Fr.; C/IF/OF Jordan Craven, Soph.

Key losses: C Chloe Alsup; SS Mariah Markert; OF Hallie Lanning; P Hailey Alsup; P Alissa Hodge.

Outlook: The streak of success Woodruff has enjoyed in his first three seasons will be hard to replicate as the Hornets lost six players to graduation. Brown County will be fairly young, with Gooding as the only senior who returns after hitting .442 and eight RBIs last spring. Markert returns as the only player with pitching experience, throwing just four innings last year.

"This is a year of change for us, but I am excited for the challenge," Woodruff said. "I have a group of four working on becoming the next dominant pitchers for the Hornet program."

Central

Coach: Amy Hildebrand (258-213 at Central, 14th season)

2018 record: 21-10 (6-2 West Central Conference)

Returning starters: C/SS Kennady Marlow, Jr.; C/SS Mady Wear, Jr.; 1B Jesse Grawe, Sr.; 3B Lexi Johnson, Jr.; OF Madison Reuschel, Sr.

Other returners: P Makayla Crim, Soph.

New faces: P Haley Cramer, Fr.; Katie Hildebrand, Fr.

Key losses: P Jacey Nall; OF Taylor Buss; OF Mallori DeWitt; 2B Kendra Obert.

Outlook: The loss of Nall three-time all-state pick and three-time Herald-Whig Player of the Year, is substantial, but there's still experience on the team. Wear hit .398 with five homers and 19 RBIs last season, and Marlow hit .384 with a homer and 12 RBIs. The pitching will be split between Crim, who was 1-4 with a 6.90 ERA in 231/3 innings, and Cramer.

Hildebrand understands it will take time for the new group to gel.

"We will take the first part of the season to move people around to determine what nine players of the 15-player roster will earn a varsity starting position," she said.

Griggsville-Perry

Coach: Joe Butler (27-36 at Griggsville-Perry, third season)

2018 record: 12-21

Returning starters: 3B Laikyn Westfall, Sr.; C Jenna Kelly, Soph.; SS Kaitlyn Leenerts, Jr.; OF Courtney Syrcle, Sr.; P/INF Brianna Brown, Jr.; OF Renae Martin, Soph.

Other returners: None listed.

New faces: P/UT Madi King, Fr.; INF Kaylee Spencer, Fr.; 1B Ashley Waters, Soph.; C/OF Marina Orr, Fr.; OF Claire Tate, Fr.

Key losses: INF/P Jordan Brite.

Outlook: The Tornadoes will be tasked with replacing Brite, who hit better than .500 last season, drove in 37 runs and was the team's ace pitcher. Butler believes he has a solid group of returning players to fill in the voids.

Griggsville returns six starters from a year ago, and Westfall, Kelly and Brown all hit better than .300. Brown and Kelly combined to drive in 33 runs, and will team up as the battery. Brown went 7-10 with a 4.67 ERA in 94 innings last season. She struck out 126 and walked 29. King will be the team's second pitcher. The Tornadoes will battle depth issues with just 13 players in the program.

"It seems every year we are rebuilding," Butler said. "We have some young players who haven't seen much playing time in the past but we are continuing to get better every day."

Illini West

Coach: Ryan Bliss (first season at Illini West)

2018 record: 27-6 (8-0 West Central Conference)

Returning starters: IF/OF Ali Bliss, Sr.; C Sydney Carlisle, Sr.; OF Gracie McDowell, Sr.; 1B/OF Katelyn Murphy, Sr.; IF/OF Daytona Dooley, Sr.

Other returners: None listed.

New faces: IF/OF Paige Gutting, Jr.; IF Morgan Broadwell, Jr.; P Elizabeth Talley, Sr.; P Brooke Lawson, Jr.; IF/OF Destiny Shumaker, Sr.

Key losses: P/OF Blair Boston; P/INF Lara Pence; 3B Baylee Clampitt; INF Hannah Wood.

Outlook: The Chargers have enjoyed a run of regional championships and have an experienced corps to keep the run going. The Chargers welcome back Dooley, who suffered a knee injury during basketball last year and missed her junior season. However, Wood will miss this season after suffering a knee injury in the winter.

Illini West returns four senior starters, led by Carlisle, who hit .411 with two homers and 35 RBIs. McDowell also provided power with three homers and 24 RBIs, while Bliss and Murphy combined for 49 RBIs last spring.

The Chargers will have to deal with the losses of Pence and Boston in the circle. The pitching duties will be handed to Talley and Lawson, who combined for just 10 innings last year.

"The key will be our pitching," Bliss said. "We are replacing two four-year starters who are now on college rosters."

Payson Seymour

Coach: Lisa Schwartz (24-19 at Payson, third season)

2018 record: 12-7 (4-0 Pike County Conference, 7-1 WCC).

Returning starters: P/3B Tori Schieferdecker, Sr.; CF Lauryn Hinthorne, Sr.; 3B/P Cheyenne Burgess, Sr.; C Tabitha Maas, Jr.; 2B/RF Livia Perry, Jr.; 3B/DP Natalie Howell, Jr.

Other returners: C/2B Kaylee Burgess, Soph.

New faces: C/SS Riley Epperson, Sr.; C/OF Jairyn Hinthorne, Fr.; 1B/SS Kylie Simmons, Fr.

Key losses: SS Haley Hickerson; LF Abi Gregg; RF Paige Perrine; 1B Emily Schreacke.

Outlook: The Indians could be one of the most experienced and talented teams in the area, and Schwartz hopes that translates to more success for a team that won PCC and WCC titles last season.

Schieferdecker returns to the circle after going 8-5 with a 2.42 ERA in 892/3 innings with 106 strikeouts. Burgess complement her after a 4-2 record and 3.75 ERA in 371/3 innings.

Hinthorne serves as the Indians' returning leading hitter after a .357 campaign with 14 RBIs. Schieferdecker hit .317 with three home runs and 20 RBIs. Payson returns four other starters.

"We have a good combination of speed and power with multi-position players available throughout the lineup," Schwartz said. "These girls have the potential to do well this season."

Pittsfield

Coach: Kristi Heafner (17-80 at Pittsfield, fifth season)

2018 record: 2-20

Returning starters: OF McKinley Jennings, Sr.; 2B Morgan Puterbaugh, Sr.; 3B Kameron Smithers, Sr.; OF Adelyn Cox, Sr.

Other returners: INF Alexis Groom, Soph.; 1B Chloe Walston, Jr. C Quinn Phillips, Jr.; P Avery Lewis, Jr.; P Audrey White, Soph.

New faces: 1B/DP Lilly Pepper, Sr.; SS Matti McCartney, Fr.

Key losses: P/SS Ariana White.

Outlook: Heafner knows the Saukees struggled a year ago, but she hopes the experience will pay off. Pittsfield welcomes back its leading hitter in Jennings, who hit .369 with four homers and 16 RBIs, while Puterbaugh hit .372 with 20 RBIs and played solid defense up the middle. Smithers will shore up the left side of the infield from either shortstop or third base.

Pepper, who had a successful four-year career playing basketball, is out for softball for the first time and will share first base duties with Walston.

Lewis will return as Pittsfield's most experienced pitcher after throwing 332/3 innings last year.

"We struggled last season, but we are looking to put that behind us," Heafner said. "Practices have been focused on cleaning up those fielding mistakes that cost us games last year."

Pleasant Hill

Coach: Ryan Lowe (2-36 at Pleasant Hill, third season)

2018 record: 2-17 (0-14 Western Illinois Valley Conference)

Returning starters: INF Brayle Anderson, Soph.; INF Sydney Clendenny, Jr.; OF Kalista Crowder, Soph.; OF Erin Mowen, Sr.; OF Chloe Orr, Jr.; 1B Kaylee Smith, Sr.; P Rilee White, Jr.

Other returners: None listed.

New faces: P Kaci Riddle, Fr.; INF/OF Macie Lanter, Jr.; INF/OF Madilyn Lanter, Jr.; INF/OF Emma Dolebeare, Jr.

Key losses: P Deme Batchelor; C Hannah Allen; C Allison Minor.

Outlook: The Wolves have struggled in Lowe's first two seasons at the helm, but saw improvements last spring.

The bulk of those struggles have come from youth and inexperience, but Pleasant Hill has five combined upperclassmen returning to give the club experience.

"We have a young team that is going to have to grow up fast," Lowe said. "Hopefully we can improve throughout the year and stay competitive throughout the season."

Southeastern

Coach: Sue Owen (4-31 at Southeastern, fourth season)

2018 record: 3-18 (1-7 West Central Conference)

Returning starters: P/INF Abbey Owen, Sr.; INF Molly Rea, Jr.; C Denna Castlebury, Soph.; P/INF Hayleigh Marlow, Soph.; OF Jayleigh Peuster, Sr.; INF Avery Waner, Jr.; INF Paige Morrow, Soph.

Other returners: None listed.

New faces: INF/OF Riley Bozarth, Soph.; INF/OF Ani Kerr, Fr.; OF Emma Whitaker, Fr.; OF Kendryk Besser, Jr.; OF Autumn Hillard, Soph.

Key losses: INF Syndie Ballas.

Outlook: The Suns return seven starters and will look to build off the experience.

Of those returners, Owen led Southeastern with a .442 batting average. The Suns, however, struggled to score as the seven returnees combined to drive in just 47 runs. Owen also will be the team's leading pitcher after going 3-11 with an 8.37 ERA in 932/3 innings.

While the Suns do have experience, they're still young.

"We only have two seniors and three juniors," Owen said. "We are hoping to improve our win total from last year."

Unity

Coach: Tad Miller (first season at Unity)

2018 record: 10-12 (7-1 in West Central Conference)

Returning starters: P/C/SS Addison Miller, Sr.; P/SS Jamie Ellerman, Sr.; INF/OF Daelin DeWeese, Sr.; OF Audrey Ancell, Sr.; OF Alaina Voss, Sr.; INF Krista Schrader, Jr.; C Katlyn Corrigan, Jr.

Other returners:

New faces: INF Alyssa Steinkamp, Sr.; OF Brianna Blickhan, Sr.; INF Hawley Corrigan, Jr.; OF Audrey Kaufman, Soph.; INF Annabelle Schaffnit, Fr.

Key losses: SS Amanda Schrader; C Hannah Kasparie.

Outlook: The Mustangs rolled to the WCC championship and played for a regional championship last spring. This year, Unity is hoping for better postseason success under first-year coach Tad Miller, who spent the last five seasons as an assistant.

The Mustangs return seven starters, including the top two pitchers from a year ago in Miller and Ellerman.

"In order to reach our goals this season, we will have to strengthen our defense and get more consistent hitting within the lower part of the lineup," Miller said.

Western

Coach: Jeremy Walston (11-8 at Western, second season)

2018 record: 11-8 (4-3 in WCC and PCC)

Returning starters: P Chloe Mellon Sr.; SS Jordan Walston, Sr.; C Savannah Hall, Sr.; P Paige Snyder, Sr.; RF Janessa Grammer, Sr.; 3B Haley Flores, Soph.

Other returners: None listed.

New faces: 1B Emily Schreacke Jr.; CF Ryleigh Walston, Fr.; 2B Addy Gates, Fr.; LF Kylin McQuay, Fr.

Key losses: 3B Tori Weir; C Lonita Ash; 2B Haleigh Conkright.

Outlook: The Wildcats return five seniors, but won't have much depth after losing three key players to graduations. Walston returns as the team's leading hitter after hitting .333 and driving in 13 runs, while Hall hit .318 and drove in 13. Flores was a spark her during freshman campaign by hitting .300 with two homers and 11 RBIs.

Paige and Snyder will be relied upon once again in the circle after combining for 113 innings and 64 strikeouts last season.

"We don't have much for numbers, but will return several girls with leadership and experience," Walston said. "Having lost two solid bats to graduation, we will be depending on these girls to step up at the plate."

West Hancock

Coach: Gena Dewald (127-67 at West Hancock, eighth season)

2018 record: 12-15 (2-6 West Central Conference)

Returning starters: LF Montanna Andrews, Sr.; CF Liz Walker, Sr.; C/SS Anna Walker, Jr.; 1B Reagan Eaves, Soph.; C/SS Dharma Tripp, Soph.; P/2B Brooklyn Walker, Soph.; P/2B Megan Fox, Soph.

Other returners: None listed.

New faces: P/3B Jenna Ferguson, Fr.; P/RF Alayna Von Keidrowski, Fr.; UT Lauren Carr,; Fr.; C Brenna Lamm, Fr.; OF Savannah Schrapf, Soph.

Key losses: P/3B Erynn Gerhardt; 2B Audrey Bryant; 1B/DP Chloe West.

Outlook: Starting five freshman last spring contributed to some growing pains for the Titans, but they're looking to get back to postseason success after being just four years removed from a regional crown.

Returning seven starters is a boon for West Hancock, especially two key outfielders in Andrews and Liz Walker. Anna Walker returns as the team's leading hitter after a .444 batting average and driving in 20 RBIs.

Fox and Brooklyn Walker return as the Titans' leading pitchers. They combined for 12 victories and registered 1442/3 innings last season while striking out 88 opponents.

"This young group of girls led by our four upperclassmen is capable of having a great season," Dewald said.

Editor's Note: No information was received from Liberty as of press time.