The 2018 version of Tuscola Softball will enter the season with a big target on their back having won back-to-back Central Illinois Conference titles. The Lady Warriors wouldn’t have it any other way despite losing one the top pitchers in program history Morgan Day to graduation last spring. Also gone is Day’s bat along with Abbey Walsh’s bat as well. Head coach Lenny Sementi lost the Warriors’ lead off and All-State centerfielder Natalie Bates to injury forcing the Warriors to replace three of their top four hitters in the lineup.
That being said, Tuscola returns 11 letter winners and eight players that started during last year’s 31-4 campaign that rattled off 26 wins in a row in the heart of the season. Lone returnee to the top of the order will be senior All-State second baseman Isabelle Shelmadine. Shelmadine will join classmates Alexis Koester at shortstop and Ashtyn Clark at catcher to make the Warriors one of the strongest teams up the middle in the area. Clark was a first team CIC selection while Koester was second team and both hit over .400 on the year combining to produce eight homeruns and 71 RBI’s. Shelmadine finished the year with a .452 average, blasted six homeruns, and drove in 34 RBI’s.
The backbone of the team may lie in the junior class where Ashton Smith and Allison Clark lead a group that is seven strong, including five returning starters. Smith was 4-1 on the year last season on the hill delivering an .875-era in 32 innings of work. She also was the designated player on nights she didn’t pitch. Clark was one of the top performers at the plate and will look to build on a sophomore campaign that delivered four homeruns, 22 RBI’s and a .353 batting average. Left fielder Claire Ring was also strong with a bat in her hand hitting .375 on the year with 10 RBI’s and 30 hits. Both Ring and Smith hit well in the league a year ago and will look to build on their honorable mention CIC nods from a year ago.
Sidney Watson held down right field last season and will look to improve at the plate. Sister Jackie missed last season with an injury but returns to the diamond and will be looked upon to fill the spot vacated at third by Walsh. Caroline Rominger is yet another junior that will contribute to the cause this season. Rominger played second base at the JV level a year ago and led the squad in hitting. She has power and should vie for a spot in the batting order during the early season.
The full story can be found in the Wednesday, March 14 edition of The Tuscola Journal.