Clarke softball is off and roaring this summer after another offseason of diligence and strong athlete participation.
The Lady Indians lose major contributors from last year’s team in Vanessa Bakley, Sydnee Redman and Alex Boyce.
Back to lead as seniors this summer are Sidney Marker, Chynna Beydler and Taylor Miler.
While Redman helped pitch in 71 innings last year, Alexis Watson is likely to see her innings pitched total of 99 2/3 from a year ago soar higher this year. The junior pitcher had to rework some mechanical parts of her pitching motion in order to not agitate a shoulder injury that she battled through last fall.
Hailee Fry and Jayden Miller have both seen time in the circle in the Lady Indians’ first few games this season.
The Markers will have plenty of responsibility heaped on them at the plate.
Three freshmen stepped into the lineup in a game one win vs. Chariton, those being Emma Bolton at first base, Kiaya Dunbar in center field and Kaitlyn Halsband as the designated player.
CeJay Blakely, a full-time starter at first base and option at pitcher, will now only be able to play in limited fashion in hitting and running roles. She will return to the team full-time after completing state tennis this week. Blakely hit .312 last year.
Ashlynn Oehlert brings experience back as one of the squad’s more consistent hitters a year ago and is pencilled in at shortstop.
The Lady Indians are hoping a renewed attitude of support pays some dividends this season as well.
“This year we’ve been really drilling being excited for someone to go in and (if they) take your spot, having each other’s back and making sure we’re cheering everyone on,” Sadie Marker said.
Coach Lindsay Diehl is much more keyed in on the mental side of things this season.
She believes the focus has paid off as this year’s group have proved quick learners. As such, Diehl has been able to introduce more stressful situations in practice to prepare the girls for anxiety-inducing game situations.
“We’re really focusing on the process and not the outcome and playing the game one pitch at time,” Diehl said. “We’re really trying to hound having routines, playing in the present moment, and letting go ofgood things and bad things. That’s why we’ve got our (makeshift pretend) toilet in the dugout.”
Rounding out the roster are Audrey Kindred, Sarah Davis and Alivia Blakely.
Even with uncertainty present in many of the spots on the field, Diehl has much room for optimism.
“One through nine I really feel good about what those kids are capable of,” Diehl said. “We sprinkle in some power with some speed.”
The next chance to see the girls in home action will be Tuesday, June 5 as they host Class 4A top-ranked Winterset.