Top to bottom, the Manhattan High softball team has plenty of experience returning to the diamond this season.
But that doesn’t mean the team doesn’t have a few holes to fill in the corners of its infield. The Indians lost two impact players in their lineup and will be looking for big bats from whoever fills those shoes.
“We graduated two key run producers last year in Kaitlyn Motley and Cat Bridegam,” Mall said, “and will definitely need others to fill in that gap.”
Run production may be the biggest question mark heading into Friday’s season opener at Topeka High. The Indians were set to host Wichita Northwest and Derby in a doubleheader on Tuesday, but the games were postponed because of inclement weather.
Among returners, head coach Scott Mall has plenty of solid players coming back this season.
His pitching staff should be strong, as he returns Aubrey Jung as well as Tyler Hoyt. Mall said he expects a pair of younger players to also contribute from the circle.
“Aubrey Jung and Tyler Hoyt look like our primary pitchers right now,” he said. “But we also have two sophomores, Sydney Bannister and Lindsey Hageman, who are promising pitchers.”
In the field, Mall has a variety of talented position players to help fill out his lineup card. Infielders Jenna Stigge and Hoyt return, with Allie Massanet behind the plate. In the outfield, Kori Bridegam, Kylie Smith Alex Perez and Jung all return. Bridegam was first team All-Centennial League last year, while Jung and Stigge were named to the second team.
Mall said he has several newcomers in the mix at first and third. Kiersten Kramer and Madi Fief are both competing for the third-base job, while Perez has seen time at first in addition to the outfield. Savannah Thaemert, Katelin Hoefler, Caitlyn Claussen and Amanda Gross are all in the mix for playing time depending on who is pitching that day.
Both Stigge and Massanet have already signed to play in college, showing the younger players that playing after high school is an attainable goal, if they’re willing to work.
“It is definitely important to have players who continue to play in the summer and who look forward to the chance to continue their playing careers after high school,” Mall said. “High school softball is such a short season that it really helps the girls to develop their skills when they continue their season into their summer play.”
Mall said the Indians’ tough regional makes advancing in the postseason that much tougher, but it still remains the team’s goal.
“In order to advance in the post-season, we will need to continue to improve game by game, and day by day,” he said. “There always seem to be two or three of the best teams in the state in our regional. For a couple of years, the two teams from our regional finished first and second in the state.
“To be successful against those teams and the tough league schedule that we will see, we will need our girls to continue to work as hard as they have been to improve their skills and to do what they can to keep our team improving.”
The softball team opened its season today on the road at Topeka High. First pitch is scheduled for 4 p.m.