Tuscola will have some familiar faces on the softball diamond this season but at first glance inside the grass it will definitely have a new look.
The Lady Warriors return their top two hurlers Ashton Smith and Kaitlyn Reifsteck from last year’s 29-8 team, but just one other player that kicked the dirt in the infield and even she will most likely not be in the same spot. Jackie Watson was a 2nd team All Central Illinois Conference at third base in the black and gold but this season may reside behind the plate. She hit .387 last season and drove in team leading 39 RBIs.
That’s right from first to third their will be four new infielders and for all intents and purposes new players at five of the six spots in the dirt. Natalie Bates, an all CIC performer as a sophomore, missed her junior campaign due to injury and will return to the squad as a short stop. She led the team in steals two years ago and will bring pop to the top of the lineup. Senior classmate Sydney Watson will be the other half of the middle infield taking over the duties at second base. Watson spent a lot of time in right field last season.
Third and first are still a mystery as the coaching staff evaluates both defensive prowess and the ability to help the team offensively. Sophomore Jessie Martin will be a back up to J. Watson behind the dish as will classmate Marissa Russo but both will vie for playing time at the corners, Martin at third and Russo at first. Another second year player Kendall Morgan has taken more than a few reps at first base and, like Russo, could add much needed power to a lineup that waved goodbye to 18 homeruns from a year ago. Senior Claire Ring, a mainstay in the outfield grass last season, is yet another option at first, which opens a spot in the outfield for another solid bat.
Abby Jacob, Ring, and Kendyl Ring were one of the best outfield trios in the area a year ago and should be a strong point early in the season. The Ring sisters were both CIC selections last season. K. Ring was at the top of the lineup delivering a .424 batting average, a team best 24 stolen bases, 37 runs scored and 45 hits. The elder sister provided some power at the plate donating 29 RBI’s to the cause. Carissa Denny will look for a place in the lineup bringing the power needed to possibly replace some of the power lost to graduation. Jacob is aggressive on the base paths and should be a tough out.
The full story can be found in the Wednesday, March 13, 2019 edition of The Tuscola Journal.