Fresh off a trip to the Division III Final Four in softball, Cardington’s girls will try to duplicate that feat behind nine returning letter-winners.
Seniors Paige Chalfant, Allie Moore, Rylie Partlow and Brooklyn Whitt; juniors Paige Clinger and Taiylor Hubley and sophomores Baylee Adams, Kierson George and Casey Bertke all return for coach Tod Brininger, whose team finished 25-5 last year.
Many of those players put up impressive stats. Adams batted .573 with eight home runs and 37 RBIs, while Whitt hit .549 with four homers and 30 RBIs and Partlow was at .494 with 28 driven in. George, Moore and Bertke all also hit over .400, with Bertke adding a 14-2 mark on the mound with a 2.27 ERA and 60 strikeouts.
They will be joined by junior Heather Sparkman, sophomores Reanna Roth and Liz Horton and freshmen Chelsey Miller and Ashlee Tharp. “Our goals will be to win the first KMAC championship,” said Brininger. “After that, we expect to compete for another district title, regional title and advance another step in the state tournament.”
The coach looks at his returning experience as a big reason for those expectations.
“We return seven starters from last year’s Final Four team,” he said. “The seniors have been part of three MOAC championships, two district championships and a regional championship. The players understand the work equity that needs to be expended in order to have a successful season. Most of our best hitters return and they have gotten more skilled and stronger in the offseason. Our pitching will see a huge jump in improvement, as Casey Bertke returns for her sophomore year after dominating in the postseason last year and Ashlee Tharp is a freshman that will see some action in the circle.”
The team did graduate a pair of integral players to last season’s success. Brininger referred to Alyson Adams as “one of the best hitters to ever play at Cardington”, also citing her defense and leadership. They’ll also be without four-year varsity player Dakota Crum, whom the coach felt was an excellent hitter in the two spot.
Because of that, Brininger does have some concerns about his team’s defense.
“We do have a couple freshmen that will be playing big roles on the team again,” he said. “We moved several of the returning players to new spots on the field. Brooklyn Whitt is moving to shortstop after catching for three years, Kierson George is moving from right to left field and Baylee Adams is moving from shortstop to second base. Our defense is my biggest concern and how it gets throughout the season.”
In the league, the coach looks at Danville, Highland and East Knox as the toughest competition, adding that Danville was in the Division IV state championship game last year.
Rob Hamilton can be reached at 419-946-3010, ext. 1807. Connect with him on Twitter at @SportsMCS