For two decades now, Tammy Deter has watched the Morrison softball program evolve into the power in the Three Rivers Conference as well as a state-championship club.|
Nearly three years removed from crowning a brace of state trophies with the 2011 Class 2A title, the Fillies look to mark their head coach's 20th season at the helm with a return to their recent past after consecutive regional exits.
Losing four standout seniors from last spring's 21-4, 2A regional-finalist squad makes the task tougher.
But a returning nucleus headed by the senior trio of catcher Chelsea Eads (.533, 11 doubles, 48 RBIs), outfielder Shannon Finneran (.448, 10 doubles, 31 runs) and pitcher/second baseman Allie Wiersema (13-3, 1.64 ERA; .476, 34 runs) is up to it.
"They know their roles, and they're working with the younger girls and letting them know what they need to be doing," said Deter. "They (the younger Fillies) have played a lot of summer ball, and played different positions, and they know and understand the game. We're already starting to click as a team, and we want to keep building on that."
Moving into the eight-member North Division of the expanded 15-team Three Rivers alongside many longtime rivals, Morrison looks to maintain its tradition of collecting league hardware, with 13 previous conference titles to its credit.
"I think it's always something for them to shoot for," Deter said of her players. "The younger kids watched the older players come up through the ranks, and it gets them excited to play, to keep it going. But at the same time, there's no pressure. They just go out, play ball and keep on going."
As for those who undertake the yearly challenge of trying to unseat the Fillies atop the TRAC, the Erie-Prophetstown Panthers could be the team to watch this spring.
Returning a core of 13 letterwinners — of whom eight are juniors or sophomores — the Panthers enter coach Bob Phelps' second season looking to do a little more than just build on last year's 14-13 finish.
"You can tell the difference between this year and last," said Phelps. "Everybody knows the program better, there's definitely a better attitude about what we're doing, and they're getting after it, putting in the hard work and time to be better."
How well senior outfielder Laykin Miner (.434, 31 runs) bounces back from a recent knee injury will be a key in E-P's success this spring, but a young nucleus of juniors such as shortstop Clare Kramer (.407, 26 RBIs, 32 runs) and pitching ace Savannah Mettler (9-6, 3.03 ERA; .429, 23 RBIs) and sophomores such as outfielder Stephanie Thulen are a big reason why the Panthers' optimism runs high.
At Riverdale, the Rams (13-6) look to maintain their status as perennial conference-title contenders with five underclassmen among nine returning letterwinners.
However, there will be one large hole for the Rams to fill after the graduation of pitching ace and top hitter Sadie Mosher. Offensively, such standouts as senior shortstop Sydney Mericle (.380, 23 runs), junior third baseman Kara Keppy and sophomore catcher Chloe Sullivan (.476, seven doubles, 19 RBIs) should pick up the slack.
"Our offense should be in pretty good shape," said Riverdale coach Teri Peterson.
At Fulton, former Erie prep standout Jessie Rosenow takes on the job of continuing to build the Steamers (7-12) into a conference contender. In her first varsity head-coaching post, Rosenow has plenty to work with towards that goal.
A group led by senior shortstop Jenna Jones and such junior standouts as catcher Maddy Andresen (.372), infielder Jenna James and pitcher Chelsea Lesniewski has hopes running high in the Steamer camp entering the 2014 campaign.
"We've got a lot of potential with our pitching," said Rosenow. "Chelsea has been the ace for some time, but we've got others with potential as well. All of these kids are hard workers who get after it every day, and they've been very accepting of my style of softball."
Three Rivers North softball
Coach: Bob Phelps (second year)
2013: 14-13 (6-8 Three Rivers), lost 10-0 to Alleman in the Class 2A Bureau Valley Regional semifinals
Returning letterwinners — Srs.: Laykin Miner (RF), Kali Schroeder (3B/OF/P), Kaeli Kovarik (C/OF), Bre Sandrock (IF/OF), Colleen Jacobs (IF/OF). Jrs.: Clare Kramer (SS), Savannah Mettler (P/1B), Addison Morse (3B/OF), Bryce McCormick (1B/OF). So.: Stephanie Thulen (CF), Emily Cox (C/OF), Kylie Ackerman (P/1B), Addie Glassburn (P/3B)
Newcomers — Jrs.: Kennah Meir (P/1B), Shelby Adams (OF). So.: Alicia Stout (1B/OF). Fr.: Ashley Davis (C)
Coach: Jessie Rosenow (first year)
2013: 7-12 (3-11 Three Rivers), lost 9-1 to Morrison in the Class 2A Bureau Valley Regional semifinals
Returning letterwinners — Srs.: Jenna Jones (SS), Olivia Edfors (P/OF), Heidi Holcomb (OF), Heather Hansen (IF/OF), Morgan Pannell (OF), Ann Renkes (OF). Jrs.: Jamie Huennekens (IF), Maddy Andresen (C/IF), Jaclyn Toureene (OF), Lexie Bennett (OF), Jenna James (IF), Chelsea Lesniewski (P)
Newcomer — Fr.: Faith Kennedy (IF)
Coach: Tammy Deter (20th year)
2013: 21-4 (13-1 Three Rivers, 1st place); lost 7-0 to Alleman in the Class 2A Bureau Valley Regional finals
Returning letterwinners — Srs.: Allie Wiersema (P/2B), Chelsea Eads (C), Shannon Finneran (CF). Jr.: Rachel Davis (OF). So.: Lauren Pannier (P/1B)
Newcomers — Jrs.: Erin Nelson (OF), Josie Frais (OF). Fr.: Brooke Stralow (P/1B/2B), Emma Sitzmore (3B), Jaeden Workman (SS), Lauren Rice (P)
Coach: Teri Peterson (11th year)
2013: 13-6 (11-3 Three Rivers), lost 3-2 to Fulton in the first round of the Class 2A Bureau Valley Regional
Returning letterwinners — Srs.: Sydney Mericle (SS), Taylor Young (OF), Savanna Gonyier (1B/OF), Alicia Mabeus (2B/OF). Jrs.: Kara Keppy (P/3B), Kaylee Donna (1B/OF), Megan Groves (OF). So.: Chloe Sullivan (C), Spencer Hughes (P/OF)
Newcomers — Jrs.: Taylor Wainwright (C/2B), Lexi VanHuizen (P/IF), Tyra Saddoris (1B/OF), Deja Munson (OF), Anaya Ballard (OF), Brooke Anderson (IF/OF). Fr.: Catherine Goodwin (3B)